Whenever we've done player previews in the past, we've tended to order it from the rotation through the bullpen all the way to the least likely 25th man. This year we're doing it differently -- the least likeliest will come first, the studs will go relatively last. So let me get this out of the way ...
So Taguchi is not going to make the team in 2009. He's old, he can't hit, and neither his defensive versatility nor his ability to speak Japanese will be enough to get him past the other guys ahead of him on the list.
Realistically, the only reason the Cubs ever pursued So was because Hendry gets OCDish when trying to fill a roster spot. Or, perhaps it was to give Fukudome a potential companion for the road, sort of a Jack Twist to Kosuke's Ennis del Mar, but without all the gay cowboy stuff. And while having a more diverse team is a very noble concept - sort of like how it's admirable to have so many scrappy shawties out there - talent reigns supreme and Lou's 25 man squad will mostly be the best players available to him, and Paul Bako.
But on the off chance that Taguchi defies the odds and becomes the 5th outfielder in front of the speedy Joey Gathright and the monster power-hitting Micah Hoffpauir, here's how he'll do it:
- Bribery. Since 2003, Taguchi has earned an estimated 5.6 million. that's like half a billion Yen. If Taguchi and his American Yakuza rolled into Piniella's office with a brief case full of Yen, I'm just not convinced that our skipper will be smart enough to realize that he's getting shafted.
- Defensive versatility. He can play all positions in the outfield and he's even played 3 games at second base - as recently as 2007! This guy's a glove stud!
- Erm, maybe he's not washed up? Before he sometimes forgot to take his bat with him to the plate last year, Taguchi was a half decent singles hitter. Even after his attrocious .220 AVG last year, he's a career .279 hitter with a .332 OBP. Okay, while those aren't exactly the numbers of champions - ignoring that he's got two rings now, thankyouverymuch - they aren't bad numbers for a backup. The odds have to be against Taguchi reverting to form in this, his 40th year on earth, but crazier things have happened. Just ask Kirk Gibson.
- Look at him. Just look at him!!! That crazy expression, those insane eyes, the #99 worn on his back, So Taguchi just might be crazy enough to be casted for a Tarentino movie. Maybe he's not crazy enough to tell Derrek Lee he's "got no marbles," or to stand on the outfield wall to rob a guy of a homerun, but I've seen this movie and we need our lovable, not-understandable scallywags. Unless Carlos Zambrano really steps up his game in 2009, then Taguchi just might be that guy.
But back in reality, none of those are really reasons to hand him the job. What is likely though will be that it will come down to the last week of Spring Training. So, while Taguchi's rivals for that last spot are presently batting .303 (Hoffpauir) and .333 (Gathright) compared to Taguchi's .182 (crappy), anything can happen. And with Captain Crazy Eyes, they just might.
But, uh, maybe it'd be best if they don't. Just sayin'.