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


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).

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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