Though he was rested during today’s away win against the Milwaukee Brewers, it sure feels good to have Center Fielder Dexter Fowler back in the Cubs lineup. The 2016 All-Star with the fanciest moniker in baseball was missing for a month with a hamstring strain, but finally took the field for Friday’s opener in Wisconsin. Any lingering concerns about his health were erased with a big 3-4 performance at the plate, including a home run.
Fowler has been a huge influence on the Cubs 2015/2016 success, and currently has the second highest batting average on the team. Moreover as writer Jeff Todd recently observed, “He has also drawn positive marks for his defense for the first time in several years.” Fowler moved back field by 17 feet at the start of the season and the results are evident. As 2015 National League Manager of the Year and general Zen genius Joe Maddon told Cubs.com of the decision to adjust Fowler and other position players:
“To get guys a little bit deeper is probably the right thing to do. Keep the extra-base hit out of it and permit the single…Now, when the ball bloops in front of you in the latter part of the game and the run scores, everybody goes nuts. Percentage-wise, it’s probably better to play these guys a little deeper.”
For Fowler, the only returning 2015 outfielder playing the same position, the change has made an already great player better-rounded. And we’ve got our guy back in fighting form just in time. The Cubs are emerging from a terrible pre-All Star Game slump and can definitely use some of the same numbers Dexter put up in the second half of last season.
Though he ended regular 2015 play with a so-so .250 batting average, the story was his on base percentage. Fowler was sixth in the league by the time he hung up his cleats for the year at .346 with an even more impressive .411 slugging percentage. Previously a big strike out guy, Fowler started taking more walks. And with newly found power, Dexter 2015 hit a career high 17 home runs. Wrigleyville Nation could use a lot more of all of that momentum as we try to reclaim the mojo that saw us tearing out of the gate in April.
And to think we almost went the whole season without the 30-year old switch hitter whatsoever. Fowler’s 2016 return was a huge relief to Cubs fans everywhere after an all-but certain departure to Baltimore came undone during spring training. Dex even gave up a shot at more guaranteed money to re-sign with us. Why? According to CSN Chicago’s Tony Andracki, Fowler bleeds Cubby blue. He was quoted as saying:
“My heart’s here…the Cubs, they treat me with the utmost respect. With the offseason moves they’ve made, you’ve gotta go with what’s comfortable…My family loves it here. It was good to get back.”
With that kind of attitude, talent and real ability to affect Cubs morale, Fowler belongs in Chicago. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein echoed the certainty that Wrigley Field needs the Fowler magic, “We are not trading anyone else. That is the move, and we feel great about our outfield mix.”
With Dexter back in the lineup, I think concerned fans can do the same.
Image credited to Chicago Tribune.
Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885. She’s also a part-time freelance writer, award-winning columnist and blogger who lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago with her partner Bob and their beloved pup, Jude. Her collected works are published athttp://www.beckysarwate.com