One of the things I’ve learned about recently is Cubs fans’ strange obsession with nostalgia, especially from dark eras in franchise history. In an effort to meet that need, I’ve already written one nostalgia-fueled piece on this site—my debut here at BP Wrigleyville. But why stop there? Why don’t we bring back more (mostly bitter) memories of the past? Here, I write about some former Cubs who’ll play in Japan in this coming season. Without further ado, enjoy.
Marcos Mateo, Hanshin Tigers
During his time on the North Side, Mateo struck out 51 batters in just 44 2/3 innings of work. That makes him one of only 13 Cubs hurlers with at least 40 innings pitched and a career K/9 higher than 10. Alas, the strikeouts weren’t enough, as he posted a sub-optimal 82 ERA+ during that time span. The Dominican right-hander signed with the Hanshin Tigers over the winter, and takes over from the now-departed Seung-hwan Oh as their closer for 2016.
Rafael Dolis, Hanshin Tigers
Fellow “Member of the 2011 Cubs” and Dominican Republic native, Dolis posted even more forgettable numbers than Mateo during his stint on the North Side. He walked more batters (26) than he punched out (25), to the tune of a 76 ERA+. Dolis reunites with Mateo in the Far East in 2016, and is expected to perform in a setup role for the Tigers.
Kyuji Fujikawa, Hanshin Tigers
You get a former Cubs righty who plays for Hanshin! You get a former Cubs righty who plays for Hanshin! And you get a former Cubs righty who plays for Hanshin! Fujikawa’s Cubs career was cut short by Tommy John surgery, but hey, at least he struck out nearly four times as many batters as he walked! After being released by the Cubs, and then by the Rangers midway through 2015, he returned to his native Kochi prefecture and pitched for an independent league team named the Fighting Dogs for the remainder of the season. During the off-season, the 35-year-old inked with the team he spent the first 13 years of his career with, and is trying to do something he hasn’t done outside of rehab stints since 2002: start.
Kosuke Fukudome, Hanshin Tigers
It seems as though the entire Hanshin Tigers roster exclusively consists of former Cubs.
Fukudome had by far the best and most productive Cubs career among the players featured in this article, performing to a .262/.369/.403 slash line and 7.6 WARP during his time as a Cub, not to mention the infamous 9th inning, game-tying 3-run blast in his debut. And his 51 plate appearances with the White Sox put him in the exclusive “Played for the Both Sides for Chicago” club, which includes the likes of Ron Santo, Kenny Lofton, Edwin Jackson, Brent Lillibridge, Aaron Miles, and… okay, not that exclusive.
In 2013 and 2014, his first two campaigns back in Japan, he performed pretty poorly. Last year, however, he resurrected his career, posting a .281/.361/.463 line with 20 homers and 5.0 WAR (according to 1.02 Essence of Baseball). The soon-to-be 39-year old is still penciled in as the Tigers’s starting outfielder for 2016, but the end of his time as an impact player might be on horizon, as the team has a pair of young potential star outfielders coming on in Shun Takayama and Taiga Egoshi.
Brian Bogusevic, Orix Buffaloes
A non-Hanshin Tiger! 2013 was only season the native Chicagoan played for his home town team, and he spent most of the year patrolling in the outfield in Iowa along with the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson. That said, he did put up a respectable .277 TAv in 155 plate appearances with the big league club. After spending two more seasons wandering around Triple-A cities, Bogusevic crossed the ocean for a heart of gold, uh, a chance to play in front of the boisterous crowd and make big bucks. In each of three games in the opening series this past weekend, he hit at the heart of the Buffaloes’ order, after cleanup hitter Brent Morel.
Tsuyoshi Wada, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
He was a self-proclaimed badass. But as far as his career in the states went, it was far from badass. The numbers were solid: 3.36 ERA, 100 cFIP, .259 opposing average in just over 100 innings. But there’s no room for a 35-year old guy without upside on a team full of young juggernauts who are about to be fully fledged. The southpaw thus returned to the Hawks, the team he spent his entire in Japan with before coming over to the States, and is likely to be a part of their rotation for 2016. And just like the Cubs, many people see the Hawks as the best team in the league.
Tuffy Rhodes, Toyama Thunderbirds
First and foremost, he’s a man that goes by the name of Tuffy. Let’s start with that. When he unleashed three long balls on Opening Day 1994, off of Dwight Gooden, he was a twenty-four-year old kid named Tuffy. When he tied Sadaharu Oh’s then-NPB single-season record of fifty-five home runs in 2002, he was a thirty-two year old named Tuffy.
In 2015, the 47-year old man named Tuffy, after a six-year layoff from professional baseball, joined the Toyama Thunderbirds of the independent BC League, where he hit for a .315 average and 5 round trippers in 146 plate appearances . Here is a clip of one of his 5 home runs. In this coming season, Rhodes remains a player/coach for the Thunderbirds and continues to be a man who goes by the name of Tuffy.
Lead photo courtesy Jerry Lai—USA Today Sports.