Goatriders of the Apocalypse

2008 Season Recap - Kosuke Fukudome


THIS is what happens when you spend a whole winter beating a drum for a guy - when he tails off miserably, then you are compelled to write his seasonal recap.

Yes, it was I who started the "Fu-ku-do-me" chant, about this time last winter.  And I did then write his 2008 Seasonal Forecast, in which I predicted he would find the Majors challenging, but then he would rebound and end up pretty much where he ended up.  However, I am not going to swell up and buy myself a swami turban, because that's just not what happened.

No, from day one, he bent the NL over and worked it like Peter North.  While Ramirez and Soriano started slowly, the Dome brought something to the Cubs that they have never had...a double shot of plate patience and discipline.  He would not swing at bad pitches.  When they went outside, he slapped to left.  When they came in, he roped it off the right field wall.  Whether it was coincidental, and I choose to think it was not, he and his teammates led the world in OBP at the All-Star-Break, the first time that has ever happened in my recollection.

Then, I don't know.  Maybe things came too easy for him at first.  He seemed to lose confidence and concentration.  Started swinging at everything, twirling around like a damn tee-ball reject.  His percentages plummeted, and as much as he carried us in the first half, he killed us offensively in the latter half.

Problem is, as I have always contended, right field at Wrigley demands a plus-fielder with a plus-arm, and even during the o-for-fives, Fooky played the position flawlessly, keeping us in games.  It was almost impossible for Uncle Lou to sit the man, up until the very end, when the team went on a slump, and we threw the "anti-Fukudome", wild-swinging-and-fielding Micah Hofpauir in right for some punch.

Maybe the pressure of the fame and the expectations that he would be the savior and the slayer of the 100-year curse was too much.  Only he knows, but although he should never have been a savior, he was however a missing link.  He was signed to be the bat handling, smooth fielding piece to the incomplete 2007 puzzle.  Sound baseball minds realized that the league would adjust to Kosuke.  But, for the money he was given, the expectation was that he would, in turn, adjust to the league, as his fellow Japanese Ichiro and Matsui had.  By the playoff series of 2008, that re-adjustment had not occurred, and everyone has turned on him.

Rumors after the season had him walking away from his 3 years and $30MM, to stay home and return to the Central League.  Uncle Lou basically insinuated that F-me was fat and out of shape, and a more "American" off-season regimen is being prescribed for him this winter.  He has lost his starting position in RF for now, and all indications point to a platoon in CF with Reed Johnson, provided he regains some sort of hitting stroke, because towards the end, he was whiffing off of righties as well as lefties.

Based on his track record prior to joining us, I have to believe he has the ability to adjust to the league, and regain his position in right.  But, as much as it pains me to say it, we are talking about the Cubs here.  It would just be typical for us to sign an all-star only to watch him swirl around the toilet.  Let's hope not.  There is absolutely no indicators to suggest any outcome at this point.  Sure, he ended up pretty much as I said he would, in the composite.  But based on his fast start, this cannot be regarded as anything else but a disappointment.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award