Sam Fuld came to the Rays organization this offseason in the Matt Garza trade to the Cubs. When I asked a cubbie friend of mine who he was, I got the enthusiastic reply "Oh, he's the guy who runs into brick walls!" Needless to say, he was also sad to see Fuld go. The expensive contracts of Soriano/Fukudome/Byrd have wrapped up the Chicago outfield for years and Sam never had a shot at making any higher than the bench. Now that he's with a new club, he'll get that chance.
Fuld was first regarded as the worst piece in the Garza trade (at age 29, the sole player of five received not a prospect), but a little research made him an instant hit with Rays fans. A believer of Sabermetrics, Fuld's stellar defense, speed and on base percentage make him quite a valuable player. If you've been watching TV at all this week, you know the man makes spectacular diving catches - even still, his opportunity to make the team was a long shot. Projected outfielders at that time were Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, Justin Ruggiano, and Sam Fuld.
As the season approached, Fuld stole his was onto the 25 man roster with his speed, but the outfield appeared to be a lock for Damon/Upton/Joyce with Ben Zobrist in relief and Ramirez at Designated Hitter. Fuld would start another season on the bench as a late inning replacement and potential baserunner. But as fate would have it, Evan Longoria would hit the DL moving Sean Rodriguez to third and Ben Zobrist to second. Rotating Joyce to the bench meant placing in Sam Fuld, and his stellar defense got the chance to shine!
April 3, 2011: Orioles at Rays
1. Fuld stumbles across the pitching mound in the bullpen to make a sliding catch, going head first into the wall.
2. Fuld guns down J. J. Hardy at the plate with his cannon of an arm. The ball would beat the runner by nearly three seconds.
April 8, 2011: Rays at White Sox
3. Fuld chases down the ball in the corner of left field to make a spinning throw to catch Paul Konerko at second on the relay.
April 9, 2011: Rays at White Sox
4. With bases loaded, Fuld makes what could be the play of the year - robbing Juan Pierre with a diving catch in right field.
April 11, 2011: Rays at Red Sox
5. Fuld has his first homer of the year, a three run shot. He would also beat out a triple and two doubles, opting to take the extra base over stopping early and earning the cycle. Joe Maddon would later call that "integrity."
6. Fuld makes his third astounding diving catch, and potentially won a starting position in the outfield.
7. Update: Sam Fuld became the first road leadoff hitter since Tim Raines to total 11 bases at Fenway. And he did it in two games.
After ten games, Fuld has six stolen bases and leads the American League.
In the wake of the Rays' raucous win over the Red Sox on ESPN, as led by Fuld's (super) cycle and incredible defense over the first week of play, the internet took to twitter today in hope of telling the Legend of Sam Fuld. Such highlights include:
April 11th will forever be known as April Fuld's Day. #LegendofSamFuld
Sam Adams offered Sam Fuld his brewery just so he would leave Boston. He politely declined. #LegendofSamFuld
Sam Fuld once caught a cold. Then he set it free. #LegendofSamFuld Mother birds send their babies to Sam Fuld for flying lessons. #LegendofSamFuld
Sam Fuld can steal first base. #LegendofSamFuld
Thank God that the 2011 hurricane season has no "Sam" listed as a name. #LegendofSamFuld
Sam Fuld once threw himself out at home, just to see what it was like. #LegendofSamFuld
Manny Ramirez retired shortly after testing positive for Sam Fuld in his blood stream. #LegendofSamFuld
Team officials have renamed the stadium Tropicana Fuld. #LegendofSamFuld
Sam Fuld stole Evan Longoria's cap. #LegendofSamFuld
Rafael Soriano would never say who's name he would write in the Pitching Mound... #LegendofSamFuld
The Red Sox check under their bed at night for him. #LegendofSamFuld
The warning track is there to let the wall know when Sam Fuld gets close. #LegendofSamFuld
He gets Chick-Fil-A on Sundays #LegendofSamFuld
All joking aside, Sam Fuld may be the biggest surprise of the Rays 2011 season and it's only April. When the spring was still young, DRaysBay writer J. C. Mitchell suggested Dan Johnson get the bench and Damon take first base to let Fuld play. The uproar that followed would have discouraged any writer from making a bold prediction again, but he may have had a point. With Ramirez retired, the DH position could allow Dan Johnson and Johnny Damon to take turns at the position, giving Fuld ample opportunity to be rotated into the outfield as a near every-day starter. As Legend goes, he deserves the opportunity!
Batting .321, there's no guarantee Fuld's hot hitting ways will continue for the rest of the season, but his defense should be enough to keep him on the field. Let's look forward to more phenomenal diving catches as Fuld continues to have complete disregard for his own well being. If his performance carries through the year, we may see a gold glove in Fuld's future. Welcome, Rays fans, to the Legend of Sam Fuld.
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