2009 Player Preview - Kosuke Fukudome
Apparently his teammates call him "Fukie"
2008 Season Recap: Kosuke Fukudome
Thoughts from the ass-end of an actual anxiety attack (from August 11, 2008)
Fukudome will be fine, probably (From July 3rd, 2008)
It IS with a heavy heart that I write this today.
Nobody, absolutely nobody, was a bigger proponent of the Fukudome signing last year than I was. What was NOT to love about a man who was an MVP of the Japanese major league, who won the first WBC with a clutch homer, who had a plus-arm in right field, an absolute MUST for Wrigley, and most of all, plate discipline so plentiful and contagious that it dripped off of him, splashed onto others, and forced his teammates to also be more discerning when at bat.
He of course roared onto the scene with his clutch homer off of Eric Gagne on Opening day, and it was true that the Cubs did lead the majors most of the year in OBP, a heretofore never seen artifact that the papers dubbed the "Fukudome Effect". It turns out, however, that taking Eric Gagne deep isn't such a big deal anymore. It also turns out that, according to our esteemed skipper, Sweet Lou Piniella, that Fukudome needed to "strengthen his core", which is the best way possible to tell a man that he is fat.
And it turns out, most of all, that very little has happened since his appearence on the cover of Sports Illustrated to suggest that he should even be taking ABs away from Reed Johnson, a man of modest talents but prodigious SWP. The Cubs will pay 'Dome over 30 million dollars American the next three years to be, at best, a fourth outfielder.
I was careful to mention last year when FukU came here to not anoint him the Savior of the Franchise, that nearly all Japanese stars who come here take time to adjust - at least all not named Ichiro. Daisuke Matsuzaka went 15-12 his first year, which is damn nice. But after his first six starts he was only 3-2 with a 5.45 ERA. Kenji Johjima, the Mariners catcher, started out hot like Fukudome his first April, but sunk like a rock and was hitting around .260 by mid-June. Sound familiar? From there, he finished strong and ended up over .290. Akinori Iwamura, the Rays infielder, was actually damn good the first half of his first year. He seemed to hit a wall in July, and that wall was still standing last year, as he entered May hitting .210. From there, he rebounded and ended up with a .275 average. Kaz Matsui started off slow with the Yankees, as well.
Point is, all these guys had to adjust. Maybe Fukudome's adjustment period is still ongoing. We better hope so. We better hope that he is going to pull out of this tailspin. The team has let him fire his interpreter; gave him a new workout regimen; let him play with Japan. Heck, you'd think if anything would snap him out of a funk, it would be playing with the now two-time WBC champions. But by the end of the WBC, the Fooker was stashed away on the bench. So far in Arizona, he's managed to go 2-for-12, and flub a flyball that cost us 2 runs.
He's no youngster, but neither has any of the Japanese stars who have come here. He might still be in adjustment mode. But right now, it is a shame that Johnson has to consider sharing time in center with him. Now, you know and I know that Fooky is gonna play a lot of right field still this year. But if he's going to hit .235, with little pop, and swing around like a damn unhinged gate at every pitch thrown at his ankles, so what? I never thought I would have the opportunity to sit here and wonder out loud if Jake friggin' Fox wouldn't be a better idea for that particular roster spot, because he's a licensed butcher in the field, who throws like a girl. But at least Fox wouldn't pirouette at waste pitches.
This was probably not the best idea to volunteer to write this particular preview, as opposed to, say, writing about the equally unproductive and dangerously combustible Chad Gaudin. Because I never thought Gaudin was the missing link to anything. Because I never had any expectations for that freak. Because I haven't been waiting for Chad to right his own ship, and regain his former form. Because I had no HOPE for Gaudin, like I had for Fukudome. And now I'm really disappointed. Just like I've been thousands of times before, by Cubs and Cubness in general.