Last night, the hearts of many Chicago Cubs fans broke as Mr. “you go, we go” Dexter Fowler signed a five year, $82.5 million contract with the dreaded St. Louis Cardinals after turning down the Cubs $17.2 Million qualifying offer for one year. As you would expect, the aftermath of his decision has not sit well with a few fans. I am not sure what they are more upset about; that he left the Cubs for more money and some actual security (five years vs one) or that he actually did the “unthinkable” and signed with the rivals down south. Personally, I am not mad at him one bit, in fact I am actually happy for him.
The 2016 World Series Championship would not have happened for the Cubs if not for the efforts of Fowler. Talk all you want about how there are 25 men on a team and that there is not one single man who is solely responsible, and you would be right. However, you can list players you would not get to (or even win) the World Series without. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks are just a few I would also put in that category with Fowler. You take any one of them off this year’s roster and you likely do not see the Cubs holding the trophy at the end of the season.
At the end of the 2015 season, we were sure Fowler gone. In fact, there were several reports that he had already accepted a contract offer from the Baltimore Orioles for three years. However, he would surprise the world by showing up in Mesa at Cubs Spring camp. As things would turn out, while he was offered the contract he never actually accepted the deal, contrary to what some in Baltimore may have thought at the time. He came back to the Cubs, giving them the one thing they were lacking, a lead off hitter.
— WorldSeriesDreaming (@WSDreaming_Cubs) February 25, 2016
As things would turn out, that would be pretty well proven out throughout the year. With him in the lineup the Cubs were damn near unbeatable. The Cubs were 83-35-1 with Fowler in the lineup and 20-23 without him. You could see the value he brought to the Cubs in June and July while he was on the disabled list. Counting the playoffs, the Cubs were 59-14 when Fowler scored a run. You can see why he was given the nickname “You Go, We Go” from Joe Maddon.
Even though he is going to be with the Cardinals, I will still be a fan of his; just as I will with everyone who put on a Cubs uniform in 2016. They will forever be World Series Champion Cubs, and that is not something I will ever forget. His lead off home run in game seven of the World Series will forever live on in Cubs history.Even though he is heading south to our biggest rival, I wish him luck… just not when he plays the Cubs!
— WorldSeriesDreaming (@WSDreaming_Cubs) December 9, 2016
Unfortunately, there are fans who disagree, and call him greedy, ungrateful, a traitor and other hurtful and untrue things. What some fans fail to realize or accept, is that baseball is a business. There is no real “loyalty” in sports. Not from players, not from teams and sometimes not even from fans. Teams will cut you the moment they do not see you as being valuable anymore, trade you away if they find they can use you to get someone they feel will help them more and players will leave for greener pastures and bigger paydays. That is the nature of sports. When you sign your name to a contract, they team owns you and can do what they want with him, and do not take the players or their families into consideration before trading them away. If a player is lucky enough (or have the tenure to earn) a no trade clause they can decided to stay or go. However, if a player decides he does not want to go an evokes his no trade clause, fans get angry and upset with them as well.
Baseball is an emotionless sport, for everyone but the fans. They grow attached to players and take things personally when a team trades away someone they love, or a player they love leaves in free agency. They get upset and say things about the team or player (whoever they see as to blame for the current situation) and stand their ground. This time around, Fowler is the one who is the target of the wrath of some fans.
Their reasoning is that he turned down the Cubs Qualifying Offer last year and had to “come crawling back” and taking less money because “no one wanted him”, even though he had an offer on the table for more money and years than he wound up signing for with the Cubs. Then he turned down the Qualifying Offer again this year. Forget for a moment that the Cubs did not even offer him an actual contract, some fans are not happy with Fowler because he did not return to the Cubs.
Plain and simple, Fowler did not, and does not owe the Cubs anything. They signed him to a one year deal with a mutual option knowing full well he was going to opt out at years end. He fulfilled his end of the deal, as did the Cubs, and there was a happy ending when the Cubs won the World Series. He came back because he said they had some unfinished business to tend to, and by God did they take care of business this year. Now the Cubs could have signed him to a longer deal, or one without an option year but they did not. The Cubs could have signed him to a long term deal after he turned down his option to return, but they did not. After he declined the Qualifying Offer yet again, the Cubs could still have at least tried to re-sign him, but again, they did not even make an offer. Yet his not returning is somehow blamed on him. I just do not understand the logic of some fans.
I am going to miss Fowler. I am sad that he will not be with the Cubs in 2017, and believe that he is going to be a bigger loss than people expect. Opening Day when the Cubs travel to St. Louis, his being the very first batter they will face will be weird and a bit sad. What will be interesting, is seeing what will happen when he return to Wrigley for the first time June 2. Being a Cardinal, Cubs fans are “trained” to boo the opposition. However, he will be returning not only as the “enemy” but as a World Series hero for the Cubs.
I do not know about the other 40,000+ fans that will be in attendance, but Cardinal or not, I am going to give that man a standing ovation. I am going to show him the thanks and gratitude that he has earned, and that he deserves.
Once a Cub, always a Cub. Being a World Series Championship Cub does not hurt either.