It was reported by Carrie Muskat on Cubs.com that, "Outfielder Kosuke Fukudome will be a late arrival [to spring training]. He will not report to Arizona until he and Team Japan are finished playing in the World Baseball Classic to avoid jet lag. The Japanese team begins play in the Tokyo Dome on March 5 against China."
Jet Lag! $48 million says Kosuke Fukudome should be at spring training on day one. This is a guy who has proven in his first season in the major leagues that he needs to drastically improve his conditioning to handle the rigors of a 162 game campaign.
Fukudome went from an all-star caliber player in the first half with a .279 BA and a .383 OBP to a pedestrian .217 BA and .314 OBP in the second half. Manager Lou Piniella couldn't find a single spot in the lineup where Fukodome could be productive.
It has been documented that Fukudome had trouble adjusting to traveling (particularly to the West coast) because Japan only has one time zone. Maybe overcoming "jet lag" during Spring Training will help to remedy this issue.
I understand that he is an ambassador for the international expansion of the MLB and that the laundry list of issues with the WBC deserves its own article, but as a Cubs fan this is unacceptable to me. He needs to get in shape so he can play well for a whole season, not just the first 80 games.
The team has built itself an insurance policy in case Fukudome struggles mightly, with the retention of Reed Johnson and the additions of both Joey Gathright and Milton Bradley. Fukudome's first MLB season has earned him a reserve role, not special treatment.
Fukudome has a lot of potential, and was a proven player in Japan, but he needs to show commitment to his MLB career and to the Chicago Cubs. If not, I suggest he just stay in Japan and never report. Nothing should be more important than helping to bring a World Series Title to the North Side.
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