Like everyone else in town, I want to write about Kosuke Fukudome being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but not to address the curse — just another in a series — but simply to point out that you read it here first. After all, blogging is all about tooting your own horn, or at least it can seem to be to anyone who reads a post not written by him or herself.
The Reader‘s own Irma Nunez made a lovely post last week on the very loose translation of “It’s gonna happen,” the Cubs’ motto of recent years, into Japanese characters, adopted by Cub Bleacher Bums and then put on SI‘s cover. (I was happy to translate “It’s gonna happen” for nonfan Irma as a message of optimism — “After 100 years it’s finally going to happen” — although fans with any experience tend to put an ironic spin on it, as in, “Oh boy, SI put us on the cover, we’re gonna get screwed again.”)
Then I published a piece about how Fukudome seemed to be having a lead-by-example effect on his teammates in the form of more disciplined, fundamentally sound play, both in the field and especially at bat. When the Cubs returned home briefly this week, not only was Fukudome second in the majors in pitches taken per at-bat at 4.54, behind only the Philadelphia Phillies’ Jayson Werth at 4.7, but the Cubs were second in the majors at 3.91. For a team of traditional free-swingers (even on a list of hitters with 500 homers on Sunday in the New York Times, Ernie Banks stood out with his comparatively measly .330 on-base percentage), that’s amazing progress. Look at Aramis Ramirez, with 15 walks already the first month, with a previous career high of 50 in a six-month season, and how that has him off to an uncharacteristic fast start. (A .259 career hitter in March and April, he was batting .281 this season, with a robust six homers and 19 runs batted in.) Ramirez had 15 walks, Fukudome had a team high 19, and with plentiful runners on base the Cubs were second in the National League in runs scored.
SI cover jinx or not, that truly has a Cubs fan thinking, “Guuzen da zo!” Oh, there’s always a new way for us to fool ourselves, isn’t there? How unexpected indeed.