2008 Season Recap: Mike Fontenot
During the surprising 2007 season, the Cubs had a hobbit-like middle infielder who was known to most as Lil' Mike Fontenot. Lil' Mike was an early-season surprise that year, and along with his Cajun Comrade Ryan Theriot, he made some game-changing plays that reminded this blogger of the '89 duo of Dwight Smith and Jerome Walton.
Then, perhaps predictably, Lil' Mike fell off the face of the earth and into the Pit of Dude, You're Like 5'6", Stop Playing Like You Have Natural Athleticism, Already. (It's a very unpopular place to be, if only because the name is so long.) A man who batted .356 before the All Star Break turned into a kid who batted .215 after, and the end result was a guy with a .278 average who lost favor with his skipper.
Then, 2008 rolled around. Since this is supposed to be the 2008 recap, I should probably focus on that.
In 2008, he went from being known as Lil' Mike Fontenot to his new alias, Little Baby Ruth. It was almost an inverse of what had happened in '07 - from the All Star Break in July through September, Fontenot batted .360, but even before the break he'd hit 7 homeruns in 143 at bats and he became one of the most valuable players on the Cubs.
All told, the little guy hit 9 homeruns in 243 at bats, and he now has career numbers that read the following: 479 AB, 34 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, 69 RBI, a .290 AVG, a .369 OBP, and 7 SB to 4 CS.
In other words, maybe - just maybe - Fontenot has earned an opportunity to play full time in 2009. While he might be most suited to play the role of roleplayer*, Little Baby Ruth is a lefty bat who has demonstrated that he can flat out hit.
(*"play the role of roleplayer"? I'm a freakin' wordsmith!)
In other posts on GROTA, the success of Fontenot has persuaded more than one Goat Reader that DeRosa will be the odd man out next season, as Fontenot doesn't really have the arm for anywhere but second base. I think that if the Cubs would consider a Fonty-Thery platoon at second (especially since Theriot hits lefties better than righties, and vice versa for Fontenot), while concentrating on upgrading at short, then the Cubs might be a stronger team. Regardless, one thing is for certain - he really may never have the stuff to be an every day player, but Fontenot has earned the opportunity to play, at least a little more than he already does.