Dexter Fowler may not be at the top of every St. Louis Cardinals fan’s list of favorite players, but on his birthday, let’s remember his best moments with the team.
There hasn’t been a single player that garnered more unrest with the St. Louis Cardinals’ fanbase in the last three years than Dexter Fowler. Since signing his current five-year, $82.5M deal in the offseason after leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series in 108 years, he has been loved, hated, and about everything in between.
There are plenty of worthwhile debates about whether or not the Cardinals should’ve given this contract to an outfielder on the wrong side of 30, but after the 2016 season, the Cardinals needed someone to play center field. Fowler was the best option available in free agency, so the Cardinals made it happen.
Now, entering the fourth year of that deal, the Cardinals are still on the hook for $16.5M for the outfielder over the next two seasons.
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Specifically, in his first and third seasons with the club, Fowler was not a player that deserved the anguish that some fans held for him. In those two seasons (2017 and 2019), Fowler had an OPS of .851 and .754 while getting on base at a .363 and .346 clip. For Fowler, his OBP skill is what he is really paid for, and both of these shouldn’t make you angry.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Fowler’s 2018. In that season, Fowler had just a .576 OPS while dealing with relationship issues with Mike Matheny among other things. That year has been written about and debated many times and I’m not here to rehash that.
The important thing is that Fowler bounced back in 2019 and had career highs in homers and RBI. It wasn’t his best season by any means, but bouncing back to a 1.5 bWAR and an average offensive season is all you can ask for after his disastrous 2018.
Fowler is still here, he’s not getting released, he’s going to at least start the year as the right fielder. His leash will likely be smaller than it has been in a while, but he will get every chance to start.
While it is reasonable to point out that Fowler is getting paid much more than the production he is providing, today (Sunday the 22nd), is Fowler’s birthday and I thought it would be a great time to go back and look at some of the best moments in Fowler’s tenure with the Cardinals.
To begin, I want to look at a game that I was in attendance for. To set the scene, the Cardinals were facing off against the Royals back in 2017 in the middle of August. On the mound was the closer for the 2011 Texas Rangers, Neftali Feliz, and Fowler stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and jumped on the first pitch.
This was a great moment in Fowler’s first season with the club, but it wasn’t the best moment, in my opinion.
That came at the beginning of June when Fowler returned to Wrigley Field for the first time since winning the World Series. Before the game, Fowler got his World Series ring and it was all very nostalgic for Cubs fans. However, he quickly reminded everyone which team he was on now.
While 2018 was a bad year for Fowler, it wasn’t completely devoid of memorable moments. On May 6th, the Cubs were in town and, at the time, the Cardinals had won the first two games of the series, putting them up a game and a half in the standings over the Brewers.
In the final game of the series, the score was tied going into extra innings until Javy Baez homered in the top of the 14th to put the Cubs on top. In the bottom of the inning, Harrison Bader hit an infield single then Dexter Fowler stepped to the plate against his former team.
While Fowler isn’t necessarily known for his defense, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made some big defensive plays. In 2019, Fowler shifted to primarily right field, and on May 30th, he came up big to win a game against the Phillies.
There are more highlights that I’m sure I missed, but there are some of my favorite moments from Fowler’s time in St. Louis. Despite reports that the team was shopping the outfielder this winter, he’s still here and we might as well appreciate him for what he can do, rather than fretting about any of his shortcomings. Happy 34th Dex.