Cubs Opening Day

Fukudome's First Was Fabulous, But He's No Kaz Matsui


Kosuke Fukudome's Cub debut
was so riveting Monday afternoon, it was almost enough to distract from Kerry Wood's ninth-inning failure and the larger disappointment of losing the opener to the Brewers.

But terrific as it was, Fukudome's plate performance didn't quite match up to what one of his countrymen, Kaz Matsui, did when he first took the field for the Mets four years ago. On that evening, Matsui slugged the first pitch in his Major League career 429 feet, well over the center field fence in Atlanta's Turner Field, and set his new team off on a 7-2 season-opening victory. In addition to the homer, Matsui ripped a pair of doubles and walked twice, so he reached base five times in five PA's.

Given the way Matsui eventually stunk up New York, it could be argued that his Met career went straight downhill following that first game.

In any case, here's a review of the most prominent Japanese hitters to cross the Pacific and how they fared in their first regular season games on American soil:

It's All About Us: Opening Day 2008 From A Cub Perspective

For an Opening Day loss to a bitter in-division rival in which our ace had to leave the game prematurely, our leadoff man looked overmatched, and our new closer was tagged for three runs in an inning, that was a pretty satisfying game. All the credit goes to you, Kosuke. Thanks.

But former and perhaps future Cubs had a hand in games all across the land, and there were other Cub connections evident on this, the true Opening Day 2008.

Here is a Cub-flavored summary of today's already completed games:


D-Backs 4, Reds 2
.
Dusty loses his first game in the Cincy dugout. Corey Patterson goes
0-for-4, but doesn't strike out. Not once. In the whole game.


Nats 11, Phillies 6
.
Following their one-game home series against the Braves, the Nationals
traveled to Philadelphia to play the Phils. I can't find any way to
connect this game to the Cubs, except for the fact that scheduling a
Cubs-Brewers game in Chicago in late March when there's a perfectly
adequate domed stadium 90 miles north of Chicago is asinine...much like
scheduling the Nationals for a one-game home stand and then sending
them on the road.

The Last Time... (Cubs Opening Day Edition)

 

"Why, I remember when my father and I used to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and watch the season start in Japan."

--The Onion ("On Baseball's Opening Day")

Has Opening Day lost any of its luster since Major League baseball trash-canned the quaint tradition of starting every season with a single game, played in Cincinnati, the home of the game's first professional team, where the occasion was celebrated with a parade down the city's streets? Is the day less magical now that it has unfolded in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Japan, and the weekday game in the Queen City has given way to a made-for-ESPN event played on Sunday night? Of course it has.

But the thing is, it's still a damn special day on the baseball calendar and in WAY too many of the past 99 Cubs seasons, it has been the one and only day of the season when Cub fans' optimism was in full bloom.

Recent comments

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  • Sorry typing too fast.

  • I think while I get what you're saying with moving around a lot of baseball is very rhythm based and for many players moving around a lot could disrupt that. It's the same reason many players aren't cut out for phing or dhing since they need to be in the rhythm of the game to hit.

    Of course then you have players like LaStella who are terrible as starters and should only PH. Really hope Madden doesn't get enthralled with him starting too much.

  • The players are required to perform with minimal thinking, relying on reflex, reaction, and muscle memory (or, as you say, rhythm). I think this point of view doesn't lend itself well to changing things up. Wearing Zany suits, on the other hand, does sound like fun and definitely keeps things interesting.

  • Scared me for a minute with your anagram for "Almora".

  • KKVG: Among the players at Extended Spring Training, Isaac Paredes is the most-impressive position-player from the Cubs 2015-16 IFA class (I'm not including OF Eddy Julio Martinez, because he skipped EXST and began the season at South Bend). Paredes has legit game power and handles himself well at SS, although I think he will likely eventually end-up at 2B or 3B (maybe not this year, but down-the-line). It is possible that Paredes will get assigned to Eugene (and skip AZL) next month, and I would say he's the only one of the Cubs 2015-16 IFA position players who could.

  • Having been a mediocre HS player, I would think at a professional level - and in their 20's - doesn't it sound actually FUN to have a chance to play different positions in a 162-Game, uber-long season?

    It has to take some of the monotony out of the job and keep you on your toes.

    In fact, the best manufacturing floor job satisfaction training theories include job rotation as a way to improve employee satisfaction.

    I hope Maddon can keep it going.

  • (It's usually KK, because his DNA is more like ours.)

  • Not just Maddon, but the organization as a whole. If the rumors are to be believed, they did a good job of letting Baez learn that he needed to change his approach, and Baez has done a good job listening to their instructions an adapting. Hopefully the same is true of Alomar, who is ripping up AAA.

    Previous management teams haven't been as good at this (e.g. Corey Patterson).

  • Man, this team makes you greedy. Going into Pittsburgh -- with Cole vs. Hammel Game 1 -- I was hoping for 2 out of 3. After winning the first 2 games 14-3, I now want a sweep. Same thing happened in STL. Very, very fun.

  • Repeating myself, but I give Maddon a lot of credit for Baez's success. Instead of talking about monster HRs and high K totals, he has talked up his defense, versatility and being a "special" player. The kid seems to have responded.

  • BOB: The attendance has taken a big hit since you left. 

  • K-DUB: I think the Cubs might consider skipping Dylan Cease past South Bend and starting him at Myrtle Beach next season, especially if he gets some time at South Bend this season and pitches well there. As a southern kid with TJS history, pitching at Myrtle Beach in April is probably a lot more attractive than pitching in South Bend, but Cease can't go to Myrtle Beach if he isn't ready for Hi-A. 

  • His story makes him someone I completely root for to succeed but it's interesting that he's not succeeding in the way anyone thought when he was just a prospect. Great defense and contact instead of power. I think failing so glaringly and getting sent back down might have been the best thing for him and his ego.

    He still swings at too many balls out of the strike zone but he's making a lot more contact on them which I think is helped by the less violent swing. So we might not get all the HRs we were expecting but I'll gladly take what he's giving.

  • "KingKongVsGodzilla"? So - was there a winner?

  • Baez is looking like a pretty special player.

  • Hey AZPhil,

    Love checking TCR for your writeups. Quick question - any of these 2015 positional IFAs stand out to you yet? I'm most specifically referring to Kwon, Sierra, Paredes, and Amaya, but I know there's a couple other guys from that class in EXST as well.