Sam Fuld is not a perfect player. He's batting .193 on the season, not far from his .228 career average, and he doesn't hit for any semblance of power to make up for that low mark. He's quick, but he's never stolen more than 21 bases. He can be breathtaking on defense, but only in left field is he truly excellent. If you asked 10 A's fans right now, eight of them would probably want to release him on the spot. He's a role player, a left fielder who hits like a backup center fielder, and if he's starting half of your team's games then that probably means something else went wrong along the way.
I do not care about any of that. I mean, I do, but not as much as I probably should. Fuld is simply a joy to watch, because his path to success has been paved not with overwhelming talent but with maximum effort, in a way that usually brings David Eckstein to people's minds. There's nothing wrong with overwhelming talent, mind you, like a Cespedes homer or a Reddick throw or Sonny shutout, but Fuld is a different kind of fun. He was an undersized kid with diabetes who couldn't hit a lick, and yet he's found his way into 578 games in eight MLB seasons and another six playoff contests spread among three postseasons.
Fuld represents the confounding variable that so often throws a wrench in the type of statistical analysis that I generally prefer. He's the well-timed bunt, the heads-up baserunning decision, the impossible catch, the right play at exactly the right time to help you win a game. He's the wild card you hadn't planned for, a small woodland creature that is now backed into a corner and fighting for its life, and that can be scary in its own rabid way. He might not have notched the walk-off hit, but he probably moved the runner over to make that hit possible, or he's the one trotting home with the winning run after a leadoff walk.
There is one particular part of Fuld's game that I think best encompasses him, and that is his throwing. His arm on its own is perfectly decent but nothing to write home about, but he puts more effort into this throws than anyone else I've ever seen on a baseball field. When the situation calls for it, Fuld will put his entire body into a toss, enough to get airborne and spin at least 360 degrees before landing, while still delivering a strike to his target. It's the extra boost he needs to make up for whatever power he might lack, talent enhanced by desire to create a greater whole. The best example came last season, and was immortalized in Vine form:
I was reminded of this play in Oakland's recent nightmare visit to the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Mixed in among a barrage of Blue Jay home runs was this gem by Fuld to nab Troy Tulowitzki at the plate. Like in the clip above, Fuld eschewed gravity to get every ounce of force he could behind his throw, this time turning what appeared to be a somersault after releasing the ball.
I wasn't wild about the addition of Fuld prior to the 2014, but after having watched him for a couple of years I now understand what all the hype is about. He'll never be more than a role player, and at age 33 next year there's no telling how many more diving catches and dead sprints he has left in him. Even I, despite my obvious irrational love of his game, included him on a three-deep list of players I'd be totally okay with DFA'ing this month. He's best as the 25th man on a good team, where he can serve as a catalyst when the everyday players need a lift, and he probably doesn't belong on a 2016 A's squad that figures to be spending at-bats on younger players. But I pray that he catches on somewhere else, so that we can all enjoy another year of highlight reel catches and airborne throws. The world needs as much Super Sam as it can get.
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