How Quickly Magic Can Disappear

By Robbie Knopf

As Mark Topkin discussed this afternoon, B.J. Upton will likely start the season on the disabled list for the Rays. That’s unfortunate for him and hopefully the Rays will be able to shake off a slow start with a key player Upton like Upton out. The Rays’ lineup is much better than it used to be and losing Upton for the first week or so of the season is not the biggest loss. But unfortunately, the Rays top choice to replace Upton, Sam Fuld, is currently out with a wrist injury that could very well require surgery.

Sam Fuld was an absolute godsend for the Rays in 2011. Fuld was a throw-in as part of the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs and several talented prospects, most notably Hak-Ju Lee, to the Rays. Fuld, who became known in Chicago as a player who played all-out on defense. was supposed to be the Rays’ 4th outfielder. But things quickly changed as Manny Ramirez shocked baseball was his positive drug test and subsequent retirement, and Fuld was quickly moved into a starting role.

The first 9 games of the season, Fuld had his moments. Fuld went 1 for 3 with 3 stolen bases on April 7th against the Chicago White Sox, and two days later he made an incredible catch that made him an instant sensation all over the country.

But Fuld was just getting started, having hit just .227 in his first 7 games of the season. April 11th was the day that the Rays’ season turned around, and no one starred more than Fuld. In a 16-5 throttling of the Boston Red Sox, going 4 for 6 with a home run, a triple, and two doubles, including one in his final at-bat of the day where he decided not to stop at first base on an easy double. And Fuld was not done. Over the Rays’ next 6 games, Fuld went 12 for 25 (.480) as the Rays won 5 of 6. Fuld’s seasonal batting average was up to .396, the top mark in the American League. Fuld then suffered a couple of 0 for 4 days, but then he went 5 for 14 (.357) in his next 4 games and he was still hitting .350 on April 27th. But then as quickly as it appeared, the magic evaporated. Fuld finished the month with an 0 for 17 slide to lower his batting average to .289 to end April. From that slump until the end of the season, Fuld hit just .202.

On the year, Fuld posted a .240/.313/.360 lines with 18 doubles, 5 triples, 3 homers, 27 RBI, 41 runs, and 20 stolen bases (8 CS), 105 games (346 PA’s). Defensively, Fuld was 9.5 runs above average according to Ultimate Zone Rating and 8.2 runs above-average according to Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA. Sam Fuld was one of the most productive backup outfielders in baseball in 2011. But for a couple of weeks, he was magical. For two weeks, Sam Fuld was superhuman. Then he realized he couldn’t truly fly and fell back down to earth.

Nothing lasts forever in this world. Sometimes things in life happen so quickly that you miss them if you blink. For a transient period of time, Sam Fuld was our hero. But now that’s over. You never know what can happen when we get opportunities in life. Sam Fuld got one and took full advantage. But sometimes opportunities close before we’re ready to back out. Now we simply have to move on and see what happens next.