Sunday, April 17, 2011


Of course I love Sam Fuld. He is the Elisha Cook Jr. of baseball, someone always in danger of becoming buried treasure.

He is just a bit out of focus because he is so focused, in the way that a particular dark-haired and slightly wild-eyed man whose features play toward comedy even when he's being serious (Ben Stiller, Jerry Seinfeld).

He plays baseball with steely, cerebral abandon, a throwback to an age when such players could keep their jobs for a decade because their minds could will it to be so.

Sam has been up and down for several years now, but he's remained visible despite spending most of last year with the Cubs' AAA farm club in Iowa. When Lou Piniella managed the Cubs, Sam was treated as though he were the team's pet poodle despite the fact that in his limited playing time, he posted a .400+ OBP.

Sam seems smaller than he actually is (5'10", 180 lbs.) and he's also a diabetic, all of which could have kept him from making it to the big leagues. It didn't. But it has taken some serendipity to provide him with a chance to show his stuff for an entire season.

Sam's good fortune came in two stages. First, he was included in the Matt Garza trade this past winter, part of the player package that the Cubs sent to the Tampa Bay Rays. Second, he got a chance to start when Manny Ramirez "left the building" after the first week of the season.

They added a Superman cape to this photo of Sam in
action. (Yes, he made the catch...)
So far, Sam has made the most of it. He was a one-man wrecking crew against the Red Sox, slamming four extra-base hits against them as the Rays finally put on their hitting shoes en route to a 16-5 win. Operating as Tampa Bay's leadoff man, he's stolen seven bases and is currently hitting in the neighborhood of .350. He has also hurtled through the air to make several spectacular catches, becoming a one-man highlight reel.

One thing Sam isn't doing right now is drawing walks. In the past, he's proven to be a patient hitter, with a BBP anywhere between 12-15%. He's going to need to add that back into his offensive toolchest, because he isn't likely to sustain his current level of hitting.

Keep your fingers crossed that Sam stays healthy and gets his shot to show us what a full season's worth of his style of play will be like.