Lou Piniella has recently begun referring to Kosuke Fukudome as “The Fook,” which I think is absolutely fantastic. Asked how he came up with the new nickname, the manager replied: “I like the name. It’s easy to say.”
Through his interpreter Fukudome signed off on the nickname and then Piniella talked about his expectations for the third-year outfielder:
We think Fukudome is gonna have a good year. It’s a learning process, and compound that with a new country. It takes a while, but now he’s passed his freshman and sophomore years. He’s a junior now and ready to go. Let’s hope he has a nice breakout year, .280 or .285, drive in 70 or 80 runs. I don’t care about power numbers. On-base percentage, getting on base, driving in some runs, handle the bat … the power numbers will take care of itself.
Fukudome will likely begin the season platooning with Xavier Nady in right field, and while “driving in 70 or 80 runs” may prove difficult while sitting out a couple games per week, playing almost exclusively against right-handed pitching should do wonders for his rate stats.
The Fook is a .262/.372/.417 career hitter versus right-handers compared to just .242/.343/.324 versus southpaws. However, if Fukudome goes into another one of his extended slumps Piniella probably won’t hesitate to bench him and give Nady a bunch of starts against righties too.
I would hope by now that I no longer have to preface All-Star talk with my usual “none of this matters” disclaimers, but please keep all of that in mind when I mention that Nick Markakis is leading all National League outfielders in All-Star voting.
Markakis, with 1,173,653 votes, has surpassed the slumping Bryce Harper in that category. Harper has 1,002,696 votes. The third place outfielder is Matt Kemp of the Dodgers with 925,697. Fourth place — Charlie Blackmon of the Dodgers — is like 300,000 votes back of Kemp.Yes, Markakis, Harper and Kemp may be the starting NL outfield. Brandon Nimmo — not on the ballot — should be grumpy, but he’ll get his chance I’m sure.
The thing about it: Markakis, for as unexpected as his appearance may be on this list, deserves to at least be in the top three. He’s second in WAR among National League outfielders behind Lorenzo Cain. He’s slowed down a good bit in June and he’s coming off of a 2017 season in which he had a 96 OPS+ and 0.7 WAR, but he’s having quite an outstanding season. I write that mostly so that there is a record of it come October and we’ve all forgotten it.
Seriously, though, good for Markakis, who has never made an All-Star Game. Good for Kemp too for that matter, who most people assumed was a walking — well, limping — corpse heading into this season. Good for Harper because anything that can keep up the guise of him having a good year when, in reality, he’s really not, will help his confidence as he heads into free agency.
Finally, good for the American League, who will likely get to face a far, far inferior National League team next month in Washington.
The rest of the voting: