Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Fukudome will be fine, probably

There was a point in time this season where it appeared every time Kosuke Fukudome came to the dish that we needed a baserunner in the worst way, and he always got on base some way or another.  Of course, there was a point this season when the whole damn team was getting on base every time they strode to the plate.  Those days are long gone, which sucks, but is quite expected.  Even a roster of Babe Ruths, Barroid Bondses and Grampa PooHoles is gonna make an out more than half the time.

The Fooker, he spoilt us.  The last month or so, he's seemed far more human, and everyone from the beat writers to my lovely wife is starting to pile on to the fact that he is struggling.  But I am not worried, which is quite contrary to my usual Cubs stance of gloom-and-doom.  Why?

Because, I predicted this long ago.  All fast-starting rookies end up having to make the "second adjustment" after the league makes its initial adjustments against him.  This is no different, even for a 30 year old Japanese Central League MVP.  Now, I understand, for the money he was paid and the pressures he has already withstood in his career, the dropoff should be less, right?  Yeah, probably.

He hasn't exactly dropped off the back of the truck, you know?  He is still hitting over .290, his OBP is still .400 (which if I told you in March that he would have a .400 OBP for the year, you would have soiled yerself in excitement) and he still picks it cleen in RF.  He does look Baaad when he strikes out with that ghey little spin, but hey.

Every major Japanese star from Ichiro to Matsui to the dude in the Bay who is now rippin' it up has had to adjust to the parks, to the demands.  Kosuke has had to deal with batting 5th (a power position he was woefully overmatched at), a brief stay in his rightful home in the 2 hole, followed by the experiment at the top of the order, where he has done his due diligence in taking pitches like a good leadoff man should do.  I think he's been totally shafted by a few pitch calls, which has caused him to expand his strike zone.

I dunno, maybe the umpiring, like the populace, was more homogenous back home, and he certainly by the end of his career there earned the respect of home plate umps and carved out "his own" strikezone.  That hasn't happened here yet...all these umps see is a Sports Illustrated coverboy who is not much more than a slappy.  Ichiro probably whipps his ass in a home-run derby.  But if he is the player I think he is, and the player the Cubs are paying for, he will re-adjust. 

I'm just saying people need to chill on the Dome.  Things are bad right now, guys are hurt, others are psycho (Pie?  Hill?  Hello?), and some are just plain gone.  What IS the deal with Ramirez, anyway?  The Sun-Times reports he is home with a new baby, but every other news source in the world, including his own team, will only admit to "Family Issues".  I don't know why the Son of A-Ram couldn't have been born in the States, and it is supremely selfish to put us a man down for an entire series, but why all the euphenisms?  If he is out having a baby, why not just say so? 

Finally, I mentioned psychos just now, and Colin just addressed what appears to be a real hatchet job on Felix DessertPastry down in tha AZ.  Some media is reporting that he IS living up to some people's advance billing as Corey, Jr., being pissy at extended spring training.  Colin finds out that isn't quite the case, fine.  Then Colin concludes with his treatise on the question of character in athletic endeavors which, hmmm.  He's our numbers guy, and a fine one he be.

Certainly there are the Roses and Bondses and Clemenses of the world, and there are many other examples of fine ballplayers who weren't fine men.  But in their own way, they kind of are fine men, because at least they have the mental fortitude to focus on their craft and prodigiously produce which in turn helps everyone else win.  It's the guys like the Corey Pattersons and Rich Hills of the world, who have physical talents but have character 'flaws' that override their abilities.  With Patterson, it is his belief that he is a home-run hitter that has caused him from realizing his full potential.  He has rejected instruction, although in hindsight perhaps the instruction offered wasn't the best in class.

We as Cubs fans tend to worry inordinately about Pie, for several reasons: the dearth of quality position players the organization has produced; his obvious speed and strength; the hype that has preceded him; the example shown by his predecessor; and his relative inability to express himself to an English-speaking fanbase.  It is unfair, in that most of these are not his doing.  It may just be that he is a guy with some speed and strength who was good enough once to tear up AAA, but may not be able to make the jump up.  It may also be that he is still too young, although there are others his age and younger who have thrived in the league. 

We're just overvigilant, hypersensitive to any possible bump in the road, and starving for a winner.  This is possibly too much pressure for ANYBODY to overcome, whether your last name is Pie, Hill, Ramirez, Fukudome, or even Pinella.  I have said this all along - the Cubs team that eventually climbs the mountain is going to have to do more heavy lifting than a team of any other name.  The karmic weight of Cubness exists.  It is real, no matter how many new managers, coaches, and players deny it in their introductory press conferences.

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