Sam Fuld: Meet the Rays New Found Stud

Parker Fox, Staff Writer

The Rays’ off-season was highlighted by picking up outfielders Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Some fans were pleased that the Rays finally made a move in the free agency market and thought they were making a legitimate effort to contend. Others were not so happy, thinking that both players were washed up and past their days as good baseball players.
“When the Rays got Manny and Damon I was kind of mad,” says junior Eric Prado. “It was like they wanted to be like the other teams picking guys up but there was no actual improvement to the team.” Eric was right and wrong. Damon has batted .260, fairly average in the Major Leagues, but has provided intangible veteran leadership and momentum from a few key hits. Manny, however, was a total bust. After already being caught for taking illegal performance enhancing drugs recently in his career, Manny showed the world that he lacked the basic thought process that separates human beings from animals by taking them again and earning yet another long suspension. He retired after failing another drug test.
Rays fans were pleasantly surprised this year by the emergence of outfielder Sam Fuld, by far the Rays’ most valuable off season pick-up. Fuld was acquired via a trade with the Cubs, who had used Fuld sparingly in his three seasons as a major leaguer. The Cubs called Fuld up (to the majors) toward the end of each season and he only totaled 40 starts before being traded to the Rays with a brigade of minor league prospects for pitcher Matt Garza and another prospect. Garza is 0-3 this season and has been seen arguing with his pitching coach on more than one occasion.
Fuld is batting .346, which is among the league’s best. Competition for the batting title includes Yankees all-star Alex Rodriguez, who made $27 million last season. Fuld is currently playing under a 1 year, $418,300 contract, remarkably low for such an efficient player. Fuld is listed on the All Star ballot in his first season as a starter.
Fuld’s game is centered on hard work and attention to detail, which is evident to any Rays’ fan that has seen Fuld diving for fly balls and running through first base at full speed, very rare for a major leaguer. These traits are not surprising when you consider that Fuld has had to overcome Type 1 diabetes since he was ten. “It was tough, but when I realized there was no other alternative, I just looked at it as a challenge,” said Fuld in response to his being diagnosed. Fuld plays like someone trying to make the team, not like one of the elite players in all of baseball.
“I first started liking the Rays because I liked how they actually played hard instead of going through the motions every night because I used to be a Cardinals fan. But Sam Fuld takes it to a whole new level. You can just feel his energy when you watch him play,” says junior Cameron Lay.
Fuld has received praise from coaches, too. Rays Manager Joe Maddon referred to Fuld’s strike out to walk ratio as “freaky-weird” (325 walks to 272 strikeouts in his professional career). Hitting coach Derek Shelton says, “[Fuld’s] contact ratio is off the charts. He has probably one of the shortest swings I’ve ever seen.”
Fuld’s efficiency can be derived from the book Moneyball, which he read soon after graduating while recovering from a torn labrum. He received an internship from STATS inc, which tracks and finds significance in statistics in baseball. The book was written about the man who found STATS inc. The book seeks answers to statistics in baseball and concluded that the two statistics that matter the most are on base percentage and the ability to not strike out, and Fuld excels in both categories. Fuld has an on base percentage of .388.
The Rays truly did find a diamond in the rough this off-season. And for $418,
300, Fuld could get hurt today and he would have been worth every penny. In the highly competitive AL East, it’s good to see that the Rays’ front office apparently knows what it’s doing.