Dexter Fowler is a good teammate.
Out on the disabled list since June 19th with a hamstring injury, Fowler was forced to sit out of his first (and possibly only) All-Star Game in San Diego on Tuesday.
Except, he wasn’t necessarily forced.
If Fowler had been reinstated from the disabled list by the Cubs on Sunday, he would have been able to play a couple innings in center field last night for the National League.
But, as he thoughtfully explained to ESPN and CSN, Fowler knew that if he were reinstated on Sunday, and then wasn’t 100% on Friday, he could be costing the Cubs. Maybe he winds up playing at 80% for the Cubs on Friday, and he costs them the game. Maybe he has to go back on the DL on Friday, and costs the team another 15 days instead of just a few.
So, instead of letting his teammates down this weekend, Fowler selflessly opted not to play in the All-Star Game.
To be certain, at least part of the decision was to avoid re-aggravating his sore hamstring, but he mostly didn’t want to let his teammates down in one way or another.
At first, that might sound like common sense to you, but that wouldn’t always be the case. Professional athletes are – for the most part – big strong dudes, that are willing to play through injuries. And while you may applaud their macho-man attitude, they may be doing their team a disservice in the process.
Don’t be discouraged by this revelation, though, as Fowler’s rehab is progressing well, and it is possible he could ultimately be ready by Friday, when the second half opens. That’s not the most likely outcome, mind you, as we sit here on Wednesday, but it’s still possible.
Fowler plans to attend Thursday’s workout with the Cubs and run the bases. He told ESPN and CSN he may yet be able to play on Friday, but it just depends how he feels. He’s anxious to get back, and the Cubs are undoubtedly anxious to get him back.
Although it was not solely the offense’s fault, the Cubs did struggle quite a bit in Fowler’s absence. From June 19 through the All-Star break, the Cubs won just 6 of 21 games without Fowler. We probably too often use the “You go, we go” Maddon-ism on Fowler in jest, but it may be more accurate than we think.
On the season, Fowler is slashing .290/.398/.483 with 7 home runs and 6 stolen bases in just 64 games. The 2.7 WAR he collected in the first half was well on its way to topping his career-best 3.2 WAR set with the Cubs in 2015, and his defense has been much improved, as well. To be completely fair, Fowler was struggling in June (.207/.277/.328, 4.6% walk rate, 26.2% strikeout rate), but he was working with a .268 BABIP, despite making more or less the same quality of contact he always has in his career.
Without any indication either way, I suspect Fowler will rest for the weekend (Texas Rangers), before returning to the lineup at the beginning of next week (New York Mets). That leaves plenty of time for him to come back at full strength and help the Cubs “go” again in the second half.
Brett Taylor contributed to this post.