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We need to talk about Kosuke Fukudome

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kosuke_fukudome_astros.jpgDid anyone note the biggest difference between Kosuke Fukudome's 2008 Opening Day and 2009 Opening Day?  

It had nothing to do with the fact that the highly compensated Cub failed to reach base, going 0-4 with a strikeout. That was definitely a glaring difference between this year and last, but plenty of good players have off days (Derrek Lee).

The biggest difference had everything to do with the complete lack of optimism surrounding this one player. There are 161 games left in the season, and already there's nothing good to say about Kosuke Fukudome. This time last year, Wrigley's rogue vendors were scrambling to make enough rising sun headbands and tasteless 'Horry Kow' T-shirts to meet fans' rabid schwag demands.

Last year on Opening Day against the Brewers, Fukudome took his first pitch as a Cub and drove it into left-center field for a stand-up double. The Wrigley faithful praised Jim Hendry's decision to sign the Japanese import in one breath and high-fived the stranger in front of them with the next. He went 3-3 with a walk that rainy March day, and provided late-inning heroics with a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth. He was quickly anointed the missing link -- that which the Cubs needed to break 100 years of ineptitude.

That was certainly then.
Every time the camera fixed on him last night against Houston, fans were treated to a stolid face absolutely lacking confidence -- the far-away look of a bored human being.  

To say that Fukudome, who is guaranteed $48 million over four years, is on the hot seat is gargantuan understatement. Whether he's letting that heat get to him is yet to be determined, but still worth questioning.

Fukudome told Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer a couple weeks ago, "Last year was last year. This year is this year. It is the changing season, and we will start over again."

When asked if he thought he had to hit well early to keep his job, he told Wittenmyer: "Take a look at today's practice, and you might find out your answer."

I'm not exactly sure what happened in that practice -- and whether it served to give any insight as to Fukudome's future with the club. But one thing is certain -- Reed Johnson is waiting in the wings. During last night's broadcast, Len Kasper kept reminding viewers that Johnson looked good in spring training, was described by Lou Piniella as "eager," "engergetic" and ready to step in.

Fukudome won't be in the lineup tonight because Houston is starting lefty Wandy Rodriguez. While nothing's official, it can't help but feel as though Johnson's performance today is more audition than strategy.

Granted, it's early. Fukudome could surprise us and we'll completely forget we ever had this conversation. Reed Johnson could be relegated to the supporting role he filled so adeptly last season and all will be well again near Sheffield and Waveland.

In the meantime, how much do we forgive Fukudome? How long until Lou needs to start making moves? If you're Lou Piniella, how do you handle the Fukudome situation?

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20 Comments

besides losing 48M, what happens if the cubs just release him? can he be sent to the minors?

besides losing 48M, what happens if the cubs just release him? can he be sent to the minors?

I definitely agree that Johnson is one of those scrappy players that do everything right, hustle all the time, and hit the ball hard. Fukudome has a terribly low self-confidence right now, and he seems like he does not belong. that picture that is seen everywhere shows him with his eyes closed, looking away from the ball, and obviously struggling mentally. though I love the WBC, I think Kosuke should have stayed back and fixed his struggles rather than going on the tournament, which he obviously struggled in. I don't know how much longer I can put up with Kosuke, but if he gets back to where he was at the start of last year consistently, you bet your ass we will be all over him again!!!

I would release him and tell him to go "Fukodome" himself!

I was surprised to hear in a report last year that he had trouble hitting the breaking ball because apparently they don't use breaking balls very much in Japan, only fastballs. That was a big red flag to me and I am sure before he even stepped off the plane in Chicago every club in the majors knew how to pitch to him. Sure enough he has struggled with it ever since, swinging wildly and embarrassingly at times. When you have been paid 12 million for one year of futility you think that he would channel all of his energy into correcting that obvious flaw instead of spending one minute of his time playing for Japan in the WBC. Japan isn't paying him 12 million, the Chicago Cubs and all of their loyal fans are paying his salary with increased ticket prices. I have no sympathy for his actions, and I think most Cub fans agree with me.

Maybe the new tasteless T-shirts for this year should read "Hari Kari" instead. Maybe he should do the honorable thing and use the samurai sword to shred up his contract.

HAHA "HARI KARI"! i would totally wear that!

send him to AAA and send Derek "Doubleplay" Lee with him and let the Hoff play!

What would happen if they sent him to the minors? I wonder if there was something built into his contract about no minors stints unless for injury rehab? If that's not the case then I don't see why they couldn't send him down, he doesn't have enough tenure or anything and it's certainly not an "out of options" case. Maybe a triple A stint would do him good.

He might take a page out of the Japanese CEO handbook.......or at least resign and give all the money back, have some dignity Fukodome.

Get off his back and let him play.......

To any Cub fans coming to Milwaukee: When you get insanely blasted this weekend, please don't vomit on our nice stadium. This isn't the toilet you call Wrigley.

what, 161 games left in the season and you folks have decided that he is worthless? get a grip folks and learn from the true blue fans that are not the last ones to get on the Cubs band wagon. give him time and he will deliver. we don't need him for run production but fielding, throwing, walks etc.

stick with him Lou.

a pre 69 Cub fan who has waited and is a little more patient than some others with Fukudome.

PERFECT! It appeared that a lot of the reason he struggled was because of expectations. "Fukodome this, Fukodome that." If he took one strike, people were calling for him to be demoted to the minors.

Give him a break-you're basing his entire season off of 1 game. If by the All-Star break, he's still struggling, we'll have this talk, but it's a bit premature to call for his, or Lou's, head after opening day.

Its been only one game into the season and people have nothing better to do than to bash on players who are in slumps. People are great!!!

I have been a Cubs fan since elementary school in the early 1980's. I remember the 1984 season and the loss to San Diego, the 1989 season ending with San Francisco winning the pennant, who can forget the 1998 season and more recently the heartbreaking 2003 season. I remember watching some of the greatest Cubs players in the modern era take the field; like Ryan Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Ron Cey, Dennis Eckersley, Rick Sutcliffe, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, Greg Maddux, Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood, and many more. I feel that Cubs fans are for the most part patient (we have to be after 101 years, long before my life began) but we also have a tendency to "over-react" especially recently. Although I am in no way comparing Kosuke Fukodome to one of the Chicago greats, I want to remind you of something.

In 1982 the Cubs picked up a young short-stop prospect from the Phillidelphia Phillies organization named Ryan Sandberg. In Ryno's first season with the Cubs he played in 156 games with 635 plate appearances. He scored 103 runs in 172 hits for a .312 OBP. His ending batting average that season was .271. His second full season with the Cubs wasn't any better. The 1983 season saw Sandberg play in 158 games with 633 plate appearances, scoring only 94 runs in 165 hits. OBP improved to .316 but his batting average dropped to .261. In his third season, Ryan started to become the legend that we all know and love today.

Kosuke's numbers are comparable in his first full season with the Cubs. 150 games with 501 at-bats. 79 runs scored with 129 hits. .359 OBP and a .257 batting average. Although the numbers are not stellar, I think it is too early to start calling for the outfielder's head. If we had done that back at the end of 1982 and 1983 one has to wonder if Ryne Sandberg's number would have been retired flying above Wrigley Field or if it would have been flying somewhere else. It has been one game of Kosuke's second season, let us give him more time.

Fukudome just another Hendry signing that has blown up. Fukudome appears he can't adjust to MLB & even his defense has taken a down turn. Evidence letting a bloop fall in front of him in Houston that lead to a run in first game.Glad my Chisox didn't sign him.

should fukudome have spent time at camp instead of the wbc?

yes.

should we take our fingers off of the panic button when the guy's had 8 at bats so far this season?

absolutely.

i remember a friend of mine saying, "well, looks like we'll be playing for the wild card." after the loss to milwaukee last year after the first game of the season.

this sort of knee-jerk reaction is ABSURD! there's still 160 games left.

am i nervous about kosuke? 100% - i'm not so sure he's going to pan out like we want him to. but april baseball is always sketchy. last year we were expecting soriano to get a home run and ramirez to get a stand-up double every game last april, and they struggled mightily. of course, they turned it around as the season progressed.

i don't agree with slotting him in the 2 hole, i think fontenot would be a fantastic 2 man. throw fukudome in the 8 spot and see if his production goes up.

we've got to give fukudome more of a chance. if his average is hovering closer to .200 than .300 by the end of may or beginning of june, then i'll be more inclined to consider some alternate routes.

we've played 2 games!

as of 8pm central time, kosuke's season batting average has shot up to .429!

just sayin!!!

After tonight's performance, I guess some of us need to eat come crow!

How do ya like them apples?

4 hits 4 runs stop hatin

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This page contains a single entry by Kevin Allen published on April 7, 2009 8:18 AM.

Opening Day reflections: Peanuts, Cracker Jack, soy hot dogs and the optimism of the wave was the previous entry in this blog.

North Carolina has the shiniest moments, destroys Michigan State is the next entry in this blog.

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