Friday, October 03, 2008

Piniella Throws Fukudome Under Bus

Disappointed at an 0-for-8 performance in the NLDS, Cubs manager Lou Piniella publicly blasted Cubs RF Kosuke Fukudome, benching him for Game 3 if not beyond.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella has all but written off right fielder Kosuke Fukudome for the rest of the playoffs and maybe longer.

"From now on, I don't want to hear about Fukudome anymore as far as whether he's going to play or not," Piniella bellowed after Thursday night's 10-3 loss to the Dodgers in which Fukudome went 0-for-4, making him 0-for-8 in the National League division series.

"I'm going to play Reed Johnson or somebody else, and that's the end of that story. The kid is struggling, and there's no sense of sending him out there anymore."

Before the game, Piniella was asked about Fukudome

"It's a mystery," Piniella said. "I don't have explanations for it. I really don't. What does he say? You all talk to him?"

After a strong first two months of the season, Fukudome struggled badly in the second half, hitting .217 after the all-star break.

"It's been a long time," Piniella said. "I've had as much patience with him as I've had with anybody I've ever managed. We've played him. We've moved him around in the lineup with the thought of, 'Well, this'll get him going. This'll get him going. This'll get him going.'

"It's been a struggle for this young man. I feel for him. He's a good young man, and he plays hard, and he wants to do well."

And from the Trib:

"Look, we need offense," Piniella said before the game. "He's swinging the bat well, I recognize that. We get to L.A., the weather is a little warmer, it'll be a few more days [of rest] for DeRosa, and [playing Fontenot] is certainly a viable option. Right now Fontenot is our best bat coming off the bench."

Fukudome, whom Piniella said in his postgame comments likely would not start in Game 3, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the Cubs' 10-3 loss. Fontenot grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth.

Look, .217 in the second half is not good, to be sure, and 0-for-8 is also not good. But let's consider how the other Cubs mainstays have performed after two games of play:

  • Soriano, in the critical leadoff spot: 1-for-9 with no runs;
  • Lee, in the three hole, 3-for-7, the best of the bunch;
  • Ramirez, in cleanup, 2-for-8 with no RBI;
  • Soto, RoY candidate, 1-for-7;
  • Theriot, in the two-hole for Game 2, went 0-for 4 and is 2-for-8 overall.

The point being, Fukudome hasn't been outstanding, but really neither has anyone else in the lineup short of Derrek Lee. And if Fukudome was struggling down the stretch of the regular season, shouldn't it be on Piniella's head not to play him in the playoffs?

What's more, ripping him one publicly, down 2-0 in the NLDS, doesn't seem like the best strategy to help him overcome any psychological impediments and "get back in the game." Fukudome is in his first year of a four-year, $48M deal, so whether there's one more game or many more games left in the Cubs' season, he'll likely be back next year. Time, and three more years, will tell whether Lou is pushing the right buttons here.


Orel said...

Welcome to the majors, Fukudome.

I wonder if Kosuke reads KSK (NSFW).