Kosuke Fukudome, who’s batting just .235 in the World Baseball Classic, sat out last night’s win over Korea. He may have to get used to being on the bench if his offensive numbers don’t improve once he eventually joins the Cubs in Mesa.
Last April, Fukudome was the Cubs’ offensive MVP. He brought a new style of playing to the team: patience. He led the majors with most pitches seen per at-bat. He looked the best $48 million that Jim Hendry had spent. As the year dragged on, however, his performance sagged, to the point Piniella effectively benched him for the last few months of the season.
Commentators pointed fingers at the “long US baseball season” for Fukudome’s slide. That explanation always struck me as condescending, like American baseball is uniquely difficult and grueling compared to the “baseball lite” that is played in Asia. Whatever the reason for the downward spiral, Fukudome ended the season with a dreadful 1-for-10 performance in the Divisional Series.
“He probably learned a lot last year,” Piniella has said. Let’s hope he’s right. Unfortunately for Piniella and Cubs fans, Fukudome is a question that may not get answered until the season starts.