Dunn could have been a part of the Nationals’ turnaround, but they showed no interest in even coming close to the four-year, $56 million deal he signed with the White Sox. Dunn, who has launched 25 homers this season – already 14 more than he hit in all of 2011 – still remembers his two-year tenure in Washington fondly.
“I really enjoyed my time there,” Dunn said. “I really enjoyed the people. There’s no hard feelings. Some of my good buddies still play on the team. I love Mike [Rizzo]. I love the Lerners. I wish them nothing but the best. You saw it coming. You knew how it was going to be. I’m happy for them.”
In his final year in Washington, Dunn often repeated his desire to stay with the Nationals. He expected them to succeed, but didn’t know it would happen as suddenly and as decisively as it has in the first half.
“You can never tell,” Dunn said. “You don’t know that Bryce Harper is going to do what he’s doing. What shows how good a team they are is all the injuries they had. They’re still playing well. As long as you have that pitching...”
Dunn remains close with several Nationals, especially third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. When Zimmerman struggled earlier this season, Dunn never doubted Zimmerman would turn his season around once he got healthy. Sure enough, since receiving a cortisone shot in his aching shoulder, Zimmerman has gone 20 for 60 with five homers and six doubles.
“It’s a matter of time,” Dunn said. “Him struggling is not like me struggling. He’s so much a better. I’m serious. He’s so much a better. The only thing that will hold him back is injury. Once he’s feeling good, he’s banging away. Apparently, his shoulder is feeling good. That’s it. Ain’t nothing different.”
Dunn’s year-long turnaround has been even more remarkable. Dunn batted a hard-to-fathom .159/.292/.277 last season as he adjusted to a new city and a new league. This year, Dunn is back to banging homers and spitting on pitches outside the strike zone. Dunn leads the league with 68 walks. He is still striking out at an epic rate, leading the league with 134 strikeouts.
That’s who he is, though. Dunn is in a good place now, playing for a first place team and back to his old self.
“The good news,” Dunn said, “is that last year is still over.”
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