No one who got any respect, anyway. Yes, Rob Deer struck out a lot. They also weren't respected hitters after they continued striking out. By the time they reached 32, they weren't getting serious playing time and their careers were over.
Reggie Jackson struck out a lot, when he came up for a last place team, but he cut down considerably on his strikeouts after he turned 25 and started playing for World Series Champions. He also hit for a pretty good average in many years. Harmon Killebrew struck out a lot, but between the ages of 27 and 39, he only had one season where he struck out more than 100 times.
Jim Rice played at a time when strikeouts were counted against you as offensive futility. If you struck out too much, you could lose playing time. Contenders had to find better options. Second-tier teams probably had someone else who could take your place. The Chicago media, and the national media when they bothered to pay attention to the White Sox, used to write that Bill Melton struck out too much, and he did strike out in 10 straight at bats in 1970 (it's referenced below the NFL labor story
), but he only had one more season where he struck out more than 100 times and then only 106, one below his highest season total.
Of course, it isn't just Dunn. Hitters are striking out more than they ever have, not because pitchers are getting so much better and stronger. Maybe that plays a small factor, but the selfishness Rice referenced is a bigger factor. As analysts look at more abstract stats to determine a hitter's value to a lineup, they ignore strikeouts and bury the value of batting averages while overvaluing walks and home runs. If you essentially ignore the essence of hitting, you might hit over 50 home runs as Johnny Mize did in 1947. Walk enough, and you might have a better OPS, too, because Mize's that year was under 1.000. But what made Mize's season so awesome that older fans have talked with me about it over the years, was that he hit over .300 while striking out less than 50 times while hitting more than 50 home runs.
Nothing good offenseively comes from a strike out. That is why high-strikeout pitchers are celebrated. But one of the reasons pitchers are striking out more hitters than they ever have is that hitters don't seem to care if they strike out anymore. Players who don't shorten their swings or protect against borderline strikes with two strikes are going too deep in counts trying to walk when they should be focused on hitting. Players ignoring some of the basic principles of hitting (and maybe they are playing to specific stats to earn get bigger contracts), is making pitchers more dominant than they have been in years.
The fact is, though, that Dunn, relative to the rest of the league, at least, doesn't seem to be striking out as much as he has in the past. There are series this year where he has looked like a hitter with a completely different philosophy than he ever had. Maybe it's the pitchers that give him more trouble that make him look like the Dunn of recent years. But occasionally this year I have been impressed and I hope he impresses me some more.