Around the Horn: Mike Fontenot
In 2009, the Chicago Cubs will have a new starting second baseman, who is already one of the fans favorite players. In his limited playing time last year, Mike Fontenot showed that he is more then just your average bench player. While he has been tagged with the excuse of being too small to be able to be an every day player, Fontenot never let that stand in his way, always giving 110% every time he got his chance to shine. With the trade of Mark DeRosa, which was done to free up money to sign Milton Bradley, the Cubs have decided that Fontenot ha done enough to earn the starting job.
While he had many doubters when he first arrived, Fontenot has shown to have surprising power. For someone of his size, he is capable of hitting the ball out of the ball park at a surprising rate. He has had many people calling for him to get more playing time since midseason last year. Being left handed, he was called upon on more then one occasion to be a late inning pinch hitter, and he seldom disappointed. Some people wrote off his play by saying that he was just catching people by surprise, and that his play would soon go back to where he should be at. However, that’s something that never happened, he continued to play at the high level and gained a good amount of fan support.
His support wasn’t just coming from the fans though, he had gotten the attention of Ron Santo, who does the baseball games for the Cubs on WGN (720 AM). Santo loves Fontenot so much, that he gave him the nickname of “Little Babe Ruth” due to his surprising power. Another such individual who started calling for Fontenot to get more playing time was Mike Murphy from The Score (670 AM, a sports talk station in Chicago). Murphy, who was one of the original Bleacher Bums (the old trumpet player), began calling for the increase in Fontenot’s playing time around midyear when things began looking very bleak for Kosuke Fukudome. He pleaded with Cubs manager Lou Piniella over the airwaves to move DeRosa to Right Field and let Fontenot play on a regular basis. One fear from doing this though, was that with increased playing time he would lose his element of surprise off the bench which would make him more vulnerable to opposing pitching.
Originally with the Baltimore Orioles organization, we got him in return when we traded them Sammy Sosa, Fontenot was reunited with his college teammate (and double play partner) Ryan Theriot. The two of them played together for Louisiana State University, and won a National Title together for their baseball team. Now, with both of them playing on the Cubs at the same time, they have been coined with the nickname of the “Cajun Connection”. The two players have great chemistry with one another due to the fact that they have been playing together since the college level. They almost have a telepathic twin connection going, with knowing where the other one will be at every moment during the game. The two players work very well together, which should prove to be very useful in the upcoming season.
Even though this will be Fontenot’s first full season as the Cubs starting second baseman, he has a lot to live up to. He has shown what he can do in his limited playing time, batting .305 and knocking in 40 RBI to go along with his 9 home runs in just 243 at bats. With him getting roughly twice the amount of at bats, he will be expected to hit around .300 with 18 Homers with 80 RBI (just doubled all his stats). If he doesn’t wear down over the long season, he might be a great addition to the Cubs everyday lineup.