WAIW Salute: Kosuke Fukudome

Friday, July 29, 2011

WAIW Salute: Kosuke Fukudome

. Friday, July 29, 2011

Players leave the Cubs all the time, and we at WAIW are pretty good at rolling with it. Hell, most of the time, we're happy to say, for instance, "so long, suckass" to the offending and departing player. When we're waving someone out the door, it's usually because we can't stand to see them play baseball in blue pinstripes any longer. You know, because they're Bobby Howry. Or Neal Cotts. Or Neifi Perez. I could go on. But today ... today is the opposite. A player who never lived up to early promise and certainly underperformed his ludicrous contract. But dammit to hell, I had the softest spot for Kosuke Fukudome. And now he's gone to Cleveland - a fate truly worse than death.

March 31, 2008 - Opening Day. The Cubs are coming off a division title the year before, and the rainy, shitty weather runs opposite to the mood of the crowd. I'm a few pitchers less concerned about the rain, sitting in the right field terrace with my brother, (future) wife and a friend. My ongoing fascination/obsession with Japanese baseball (as manifested in my love of 1992 Tom Selleck vehicle Mr. Baseball) has me eager to see what the new right fielder can do. With one out in the bottom of the second inning, he steps in against Ben Sheets (remember him?) and sends his first pitch in the Major Leagues rocketing against the still-dormant ivy. Fucking awesome.

Much later in the game, trailing by three runs in the bottom of the ninth, our man comes up again with two on. And holy shit does he knock the crap out of the ball to right-center. The place is goddam pandemonium. We lost in extras that day (thanks, Bobby Howry!), but the atmosphere was electric and the excitement palpable. It started the amazing run of the 2008 season, and briefly made Fukudome into a fan favorite. The Lakeview Baseball Club hung a Japanese flag from their building. Fuk found himself on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Eventually, some assholes turned things ugly, as sub-sections Cubs fandom are unfortunately wont to do, and we had to deal with this horsehit.

Of course, it all died down pretty fast. And he never did match the first half that saw him get elected as a starter to the 2008 All Star Game. But I still treasured that excitement - only a handful of Cubs players have managed to create a moment like that for me. And I still enjoyed the little things that he did extremely well. Kosuke was a very good fielder, and could gun people out for my favorite play in baseball - the fly out/putout. Seeing him on the opposite side of Soriano only cemented his status in my mind as a defensive giant. And as deflating as seeing him corkscrew into a strikeout could be, he was actually great at managing the zone. He left us with an OBP of .372, which was by far the best on the team. To give you some idea, the next best is Marlon Byrd at .353, A-Ram and Pena are in the .330s, and Tyler Colvin gets on base at a stunning .175 clip. Ignore slugging percentage, and Fukudome was the veritable offensive engine. Of course you can't, but that kind of selectivity is how I managed my unwarranted level of Fukudome fandom.

So long, Kosuke. WAIW salutes you. You were our Bizarro Tom Selleck, and we love you for that.