Dunn takes home 'bittersweet' Comeback Player of the Year honors

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Dunn takes home 'bittersweet' Comeback Player of the Year honors

Adam Dunn delivered on Tuesday a promise he made in February as The Sporting News has named him American League comeback player of the year.

The White Sox slugger was honored after he was named an All-Star for the first time since 2002 and hit .204 with 41 home runs, 96 RBIs, 105 walks and 87 runs scored in 151 games in 2012.

One season earlier, Dunn hit .159 with 11 homers, 42 RBIs, 36 runs and 75 walks in 122 games.

Winning the award isnt a surprise to Dunn, who told CSNChicago.com in spring training it was one to which he had already laid claim. But its an experience he wouldnt mind having skipped altogether.

Its an award I hope I never win again, Dunn said on a conference call. Its bittersweet. Im very appreciative, but I wish I never would have won it -- then I wouldnt have had the bad to go with the good.

Dunn wasn't the teams only viable candidate for the award as pitcher Jake Peavy and outfielder Alex Rios rebounded nicely from poor 2011 campaigns as well. But Dunn was voted the award winner by fellow AL players after he hit 18 homers that tied the game or put the White Sox ahead. Dunn also had a career-high 15 homers against left-handed pitchers after he hit none in 2011.

We had a number of guys mentioned throughout the season as candidates for this award, which is gratifying for us as a coaching staff, said White Sox manager Robin Ventura. Adam is one of the best clubhouse guys I have been around, and its nice to see that his hard work paid off. He is deserving of the honor.

Peavy bounced back from potential career-ending surgery and two injury-riddle seasons to go 11-12 with a 3.37 ERA and posted team-highs with 219 innings and 194 strikeouts. Rios hit .304 with 25 homers, 91 RBIs, 93 runs and 23 stolen bases and a team-high 184 hits in 2012. In 2011, Rios hit .227 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs. At SoxFest in January, Dunn said he thought the White Sox made two major offseason additions in getting himself and Rios back to normal.

Without (Rios), we would have been sunk, Dunn said.

Dunn, 32, became the fifth White Sox player to be named AL comeback player of the year since its inception in 1965, joining Jim Thome (2006), Paul Konerko (2004), Frank Thomas (2000) and Bo Jackson (1993).

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews recorded a four-point night, including the game-winning goal, and Corey Crawford recorded his 200th career victory as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Sunday night.

Crawford, who had struggled in recent starts, stopped 25 of 27 shots in this one. Brian Campbell garnered his 500th career point with his primary assist on Panik's goal. Toews recorded two assists, moving ahead of Jeremy Roenick for 13th among the Blackhawks' all-time assist leaders (330).

Marian Hossa, who recorded an empty-net goal late, garnered his 400th point in a Blackhawks uniform.

The Blackhawks had one of their best first periods on Sunday night, outshooting the Canucks 18-9 and taking that 2-0 lead. Richard Panik scored his 11th goal of the season from the slot off Campbell's feed and Patrick Kane scored his 15th goal of the season.

The third wasn't nearly as good as Troy Stecher scored a power-play goal and Bo Horvat scored 46 seconds later. But Toews scored off a carom off the backboards with 1:18 remaining to regain a 3-2 lead, and Hossa’s empty-net goal sealed it.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.