It's about time that someone discussed Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot without stopping after the sentence "they played on LSU's national championship team together." The Cubs' middle-infield tandem is more valuable than their color-commentator friendly side-fact of having names that end in "ot" and being from Louisiana.
There might not be a more lovable pair of guys now that Mark DeRosa is in laboring away in Cleveland. Theriot is hitting over .300 again after doing the same last season and leads the team in stolen bases. Fontenot is right up there with the Cubs' RBI leaders including ranking 2nd in team home runs with 5. At this rate he could hit 25 HR and drive in 75.
Did I mention that the Cubs will be paying both of these guys a total of less than a million dollars this season?
For being a team leader in statistics, both of these guys are an under-appreciated part of this Cubs team. While it remains to be seen if Fontenot can be an everyday player, Theriot has more than proven it. When his one-year contract is up, you can bet the Cubs will have to pay him to keep him -- and they better. Any team in the majors would love to have him hitting second in their line-up: he doesn't have lightning speed but he he's fast and he gets on base a lot. Yet Piniella has placed him all over the lineup, including 8th.
Theriot hitting two home runs in the Marlins series, one being a grand slam, is unfathomable. He might not hit another home run this year. If he does miraculously start getting some lift in his swing consistently without sacrificing his hit productivity -- he would become a superstar. Still, his fan-appreciation level should skyrocket.
Speaking of rockets, "The Pocket Rocket" as he's deemed on ESPN 1000 or "Little Babe Ruth" as bestowed by Ron Santo, continues to impress because he doesn't fit a mold or baseball stereotype. At 5'8" he brings a lot of power and extra-base capability. He also plays second base. He's the kind of player that should make a great run-producing line-up become amazing. Once Ramirez gets back in the line-up and Fontenot can return to 2nd base, his numbers will start going back up hitting behind Ramirez and not having to worry as much about defense.
So if you're picking new favorites this season, you have your guys. Nobody exceeds their expectations like these two -- if the Cubs can't get it done this season, you'd hope they'd keep them as part of their building blocks for the future and dump the overrated salary weight. But let's hope they can just make a great team better this season and not spend the next five months trying to make up for the underproduction of others.