Que Sarah, Sarah

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cubs Basewars: Fukudome Fever

Monday, February 18, 2008


By SportsBank.net writers David K. & Sarah Spain

I think you will agree with me that the Cubs are a good team, as evident by their brief trip to the playoffs last season. What they are not is a great team, which is why their off-season moves, or lack thereof, are quite baffling. I like that they dumped some dead weight in Mark Prior, Will Ohman, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd and Craig Monroe. But while other good National League teams were acquiring big name pitchers (the D-Backs getting Dan Haren, the Mets stealing Johan Santana), the Cubs sat on their hands.

GM Jim Hendry called the signing of Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukodome his plan A and plan B this off-season. Granted I have never seen Fukodome play outside of the quick clips I have seen on Sportscenter and YouTube, but I have a hard time seeing this acquisition taking the Cubs to the next level. So Sarah, let me ask you this: do you have Fukodome Fever? - Dave

Well I have to admit the 12-year-old in me is pretty excited to see the headlines, signs and t-shirts that will result from Fukudome Fever taking over Chicago. Something tells me drunken men all over Wrigleyville will be stumbling out of bars incorporating the slugger's name into their pick-up lines. Truly, what lady can resist being cursed at and then ordered into bed, all in four syllables? Like you, I haven't seen the guy play much, but I'm really excited to see what he has to offer the team. I hope he can make a smooth transition to the US and not put on too many pounds snarfing down Chicago-style pizza---although I wouldn't blame him if he did. Sure do miss it out here in Cali...

I imagine one reason Hendry hasn't made too many off-season moves is the sick amount of dough the Cubs dropped last year. To go from dead last to first took some serious cash and this year's squad will only be better now that those new guys have settled in. Last year's late rally had much to do with Lou Piniella finally getting a good understanding of his players and his lineup. This season Sweet Lou won't have to waste nearly as much time bouncing men from plate to plate and right field to left. We may not have the big names that Detroit does, but I think the "100 years of tears" campaign might finally be put to rest. - Sarah

How did I not think of all the tomfoolery that will certainly result from Fukodome Fever? Hopefully, it's not contagious and can be cleared up with an over-the-counter ointment, though.

The boys from Wrigley did shell out some major dough in contracts last season and with Alfonso Soriano not living up to his huge deal, I can see how they might be hesitant to cough up more cash. Still, they could have done something whether it was via trade or just try to sure up the bullpen. I wasn't expecting to land Johan or Haren or even Andruw Jones, but relying on Ryan Dempster to turn into our number five starter doesn't exactly help me sleep more soundly at night nor does turning over the center field position to Felix Pie when that experiment didn't go so smoothly last season.

I hope when you mentioned the "100 years of tears" campaign being put to rest, you weren't referring to the Cubs making the World Series... I'm as big of a proponent of the "Wait 'til next year" slogan as the next Cub fan, but I just do not see it happening this year, unless the Cubs make a major move during the season. The pitching staff scares me most, especially the pen. We are assuming Kerry Wood will stay healthy which is as smart a decision as letting Britney Spears baby-sit your kids. Unless Carlos Marmol can throw every single day, I see more middle relief struggles. What do you think Mitch Williams is doing these days besides listening to "Wild Thing" on repeat while watching old 1989 Cubs videos? - Dave

..> I have to admit I'm a positive person. I remember back in the good ol' days when I was an athlete, we were told to imagine ONLY positive scenarios, never letting negativity enter our pre-game visualizations. I treat my teams the same way, even when the logical side of me tries to take over and ruin all the fun. During Spring Training the Cubs are like a new boyfriend--any flaws and failings are overshadowed by the hope and excitement promised by a fresh start. I look at it this way: if I can have faith in the Cubs after a hundred years of disappointment, I can have faith in men after 27. Yes, men can be stubborn, cocky and uncommunicative. They've got nice strong arms and a knack for fixing things, though. Sure, the Cubs' middle infield is weak, Ryan Dempster's risky and Kerry Wood's got his surgeon on speed-dial. At least I've got another year to wear my "We Got Wood" shirt. Despite the team's apparent shortcomings, I want to--and until they prove me otherwise I will--believe. I believe Alfonso Soriano will be the guy we paid for. I believe Derrek Lee will make another run at the Triple Crown. And I believe Carlos Marmol is the next great closer in baseball.

Should Hendry have made some more off-season moves? Probably. Will this team have enough firepower to make a mark in the postseason? Doesn't seem likely. We can't say for sure, though, until the last out of the season. During Spring Training last year, no one had the Rockies in the World Series, but there they were, battling the Sawx in late October. That's why they play the game. While the Tigers and Yankees look to be as stacked as a Hefner Playmate, sometimes the most loaded teams are the most likely to blow up. Superstars will always show up. A-Rod will get his homers, Suzuki will get his hits. It's the maybe-guys that make or break a team, and the Cubs have a lot of 'em. Guys like the impossibly versatile Mark DeRosa, the promising but unproven Geovany Soto and the big-hearted but not big-bodied Ryan Theriot. How do you see these guys panning out in 2008? And what do you think of Sweet Lou's plan to bat Fukudome 5th on Opening Day? - Sarah

Sarah, I admire your optimism. I really do. I once had that same positive outlook on the Cubs until the 2003 post-season ending ripped my heart out like the action scene in a gruesome kung-fu film. I also respect Ryan Dempster for making the bold claim that he thinks the Cubs will win the World Series. Why not show some confidence heading into Spring Training? By the way, men are not stubborn and uncommunicative, but I really don't want to talk about it, now or ever.

I think the five spot is fitting for Fukudome. It will be nice having someone bat behind D-Lee and A-Ram who won't do the Sammy Sosa/Jeromy Burnitz/Cliff Floyd/Jacque Jones thing of striking out 150 times in a season. From what I have heard about Fukudome, he hits for average more than power which should be a welcome addition to the middle of the line-up. Let's hope Soriano returns to his old self and can provide a boost at the top of the order. I think the Cubs still have the leg up in what should be another weak NL Central Division race. That is, if the starting pitching can hold up and the bullpen doesn't leak like a siev. What I have a hard time believing is that the Cubs can compete with the Mets or D-Backs in the NL, let alone take down the Red Sox or Tigers in a seven-game series. I agree the x-factor will be the "other guys" like DeRosa, Theriot, and Soto. I keep hearing rumors of Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts coming to the north side before the season starts which would definitely make our everyday line-up more dangerous and consistent.

I'll follow your example for now and believe. But don't be surprised if my sanity is more up and down than Carlos Zambrano's this season. I will promise that I won't attack you in the dugout if we disagree on how to pitch to a certain batter though. - Dave

I'm excited to see if Fukudome can excel in the 5 spot. Last year the Cubs' No. 5 batters only combined for 75 RBIs, which was last in the National League. They also ranked 11th in hitting and on-base percentage from the No. 5 position, so Fukudome will make a difference quickly and easily even if he starts out just average. As of Valentine's Day, reports said Hendry was still sweet on Brian Roberts, so that deal is far from off the table. The Cubs need another good lefty so adding a switch-hitter like Roberts into the mix with the unproven Fukudome and the inconsistent Pie would help the lineup enormously.

I'll be at Spring Training for a few days in March, so I'll get the inside scoop on Pie's development, Zambrano's state of mind, Piniella's shrinking waistline and the fast-spreading Fukudome Fever. Let's hope by then Roberts is in Cubbie blue, Wood is still off the DL and Mark DeRosa is divorced..er, what? Wishful thinking...sigh. Eamus Catuli AC000000! - Sarah


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