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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Big Breeze Appreciation Day?

Posted By on 07.14.11 at 01:38 PM

Even ComEd figured out how to restore power eventually. But as baseball revs up again today, the big question for the White Sox remains: Can the team solve its power problem in the second half? Specifically, can it get its $14 million "slugger" to break .160?

Myriad cures have been proposed for the Big Breeze's troubles. He should have his eyes examined, think less, swing harder or not so hard, take fewer pitches or more, lose weight or gain it. He's talked with a psychologist, tried bats of various makes and colors (though nothing yet in plaid or paisley).

I favor the suggestion made by Laurence Holmes, one of the witty hosts of 670 The Score, the radio sports talk station. "We've been kicking the snot out of Adam Dunn for six weeks now, with no results," Holmes observed recently. "Do you think that we could find it in ourselves as White Sox fans—maybe it's for just one game....Can we find it in ourselves to give the guy a hug?"

A Big Breeze Appreciation Day! That's a great idea. The first 10,000 fans would receive—fans. Dunn would be showered with gifts before the game—eyeglasses, earplugs, cases of Swiss cheese. Teammates would tell inspirational stories of how the Big Breeze took time, in his darkest hours, to help them improve their video game scores. Then Dunn himself would step up to the mike and his voice would echo through the Cell: "Today—I consider myself—the luckiest whiffer—on the face of the earth."

But Big Breeze Appreciation Day should be on a day when he's likely to have some success—and therein lies the problem.

It has to be a home game, of course—but Dunn is hitting only .123 at home. It can't be when a southpaw is facing the Sox—he's hitting .031 against lefties. It shouldn't be when a power pitcher will be on the mound—he's batting .071 against them. An afternoon game is ill-advised—he's hitting .124 in broad daylight.

So: A night game, against a soft-tossing right-hander. Maybe throwing underhand, but with not too much arc.

Since that might be hard to arrange, we should try the next-best thing in keeping with Holmes's laudable call for a compassionate response: a restorative justice session.

Simple punishment quenches the thirst for vengeance, but accomplishes little that lasts. Exiling Dunn to the bench or minors ("incapacitation") would stop him temporarily from reoffending, and booing him out of the park ("deterrence") might discourage other would-be whiffers, but neither approach solves the problem. And punishment, studies have shown, only debases those who insist on it.

In a restorative justice session, offender and victim sit down together, discuss the crime, and come to a meeting of the minds and hearts. It may not change the bottom line, but, proponents say, it ennobles both victim and offender.

One Sox fan would be chosen to represent the multitudes. He or she would tell the Big Breeze of the anger and humiliation his Ks and microscopic average are causing fans. Dunn would accept full responsibility for his inactions, but he'd also get a chance to offer his perspective—the frustration of so many failed attempts at rehabilitation, his mortifying retreats to the dugout. After a few sympathetic nods from both parties, and maybe a few tears, the designated fan and the designated hitter would hug, and, so long as none of the fan's bones were broken, everyone would feel a lot better.

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