Signing a two-year, $20 million pact with the Washington Nationals was not “something Adam Dunn could have envisioned when he filed for free agency on Nov. 1” writes the Post’s Dave Sheinin. Of course, that was before the man your editor once called “a lumpy strikeout machine” found himself “in the midst of a deep recession that turned baseball’s talent marketplace upside down.” Hence, yesterday’s introductory press conference became time to turn on the charm.
Dunn, 29, handled the majority of questions adroitly, praising the Nationals’ new stadium, saying he doesn’t care whether he plays left field or first base and warning anyone who would criticize his defense to watch out — because he is the healthiest he has been in years.
“It’s going to be fun,” the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Texan said, “I can promise y’all. . . . I’m at full health now. We’re going to see.”
More impressive was the delicateness and honesty with which Dunn addressed the uneasy truth that stayed mostly below the surface yesterday — that while he may have been the Nationals’ top choice for much of the winter, at least after they lost out on Mark Teixeira, they were not necessarily his.
“I definitely had doubts” about signing with the Nationals, Dunn acknowledged. “When all this first came about, I was saying, ‘Man, they lost 102 games last year,’ and this and that. . . . Coming into this offseason, I was sold on playing for a contender, playing for a team that’s already proven themselves.”
But Dunn said he did “research” on the Nationals and realized the team was both exceedingly young and exceedingly beset by injuries in 2008. He spoke frequently to Nationals right fielder Austin Kearns, a good friend from their days together in Cincinnati, and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, another good friend. He listened to their sales pitches, and those of Bowden, who first drafted Dunn as general manager of the Reds in 1998, and Manager Manny Acta.
“I didn’t realize the injuries,” Dunn said. “I didn’t realize how young these guys were.”
“I can sit here with a straight face,” he said, “and say this is where I wanted to be.”