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In appreciation of Dexter Fowler

The former Cubs outfielder announced his retirement from baseball.

Dexter Fowler at the Cubs World Series rally in November 2016
Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

His nickname with the Cubs, bestowed by manager Joe Maddon, was “You go, we go.” I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for Dexter Fowler, the best leadoff man the Cubs have had in my lifetime, as he helped the team to a pair of playoff appearances and a World Series title in 2016.

Tuesday, Fowler announced his retirement from baseball on Twitter:

Fowler was acquired from the Astros January 19, 2015 for Dan Straily and Luis Valbuena, one of Theo Epstein’s best trades in his tenure with the Cubs.

Installed in the leadoff spot, Fowler hit .250/.346/.411 with 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2015, leading the team with 102 runs scored. He was the first Cub to score 100+ runs in a season since Mark DeRosa had 103 in 2008.

You will certainly remember his home run in the 2015 Wild Card Game:

And, Fowler was one of a record six Cubs to homer in Game 4 of the division series against the Cardinals.

Fowler was available from Houston largely because he was a pending free agent after 2015. And for quite a while that offseason, it appeared he might sign elsewhere, including rumors that he had signed a multi-year deal with the Orioles. That’s why it was a surprise to everyone — well, except management — when he strolled onto the back fields in Mesa one sunny morning in February 2016:

Dexter Fowler surprised teammates when he arrived in camp, signed to a one-year deal for 2016 with a mutual option for 2017. Loud applause burst forth from the entire squad, assembled at the mound in Field 6.

The deal is being reported as an $8 million base with a $5 million buyout and $9.5 million mutual option, according to several Cubs beat writers via Twitter.

Fowler missed 37 games with injuries in 2016, but was quite productive while playing, batting .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 125 games. The Cubs haven’t had a leadoff hitter with an OBP anything close to that since, and it’s shown in the on-field results. Fowler’s presence in the lineup mattered that year — the Cubs were 80-38 in games he started, just 23-20 in games he didn’t.

Fowler also had a productive postseason in 2016, and of course you’ll remember forever his home run in Game 7 of the World Series, the first leadoff home run in World Series Game 7 history:

While it would have been great to keep Fowler, the Cubs were unwilling to meet the price he got in a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Cardinals. He had two pretty good years in St. Louis (2017 and 2019) but the rest of his Cardinals tenure was marred by injuries and they wound up trading him to Joe Maddon’s Angels in February 2021. Still injured, Fowler played in just seven games for the Angels before missing the rest of the 2021 season. The Blue Jays signed him in the 2021-22 offseason, but he played in only three games for their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo before he was released.

Dex says he’s only done playing, not done with baseball:

I agree with Fowler’s statement — I think he’d be an asset to any ownership group. I look forward to the next phase of Fowler’s life and thank him for the memories and the World Series title. He’ll always be a Chicago Cubs champion.