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Cubs' Fox works hard to show he can do what he's told he cannot
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Jake Fox

 

Associated Press file

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Published: 9/29/2009 12:04 AM

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Cubs scouting report

Cubs vs. Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field

TV: Channel 9 Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon; Comcast SportsNet Plus (CLTV) Wednesday night; Comcast SportsNet Thursday

Radio: WGN 720-AM

Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Ryan Dempster (10-8) vs. Kevin Hart (4-8) Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.; Ted Lilly (12-8) vs. Charlie Morton (4-9) Wednesday at 1:05 p.m.; Carlos Zambrano (9-6) vs. Jeff Karstens (3-5) Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.; Tom Gorzelanny (7-2) vs. Paul Maholm (8-9) Thursday at 7:05 p.m.

At a glance: The Cubs are 9-2 against the Pirates this year, 4-1 at Wrigley Field. Wednesday's doubleheader includes a makeup of a rainout on Aug. 16. The Pirates entered Monday 31 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cubs' Aramis Ramirez is 8-for-20 with 2 homers off Maholm. Derrek Lee is 7-for-21 and Ryan Theriot is 6-for-18 vs. Maholm. The Pirates entered Monday last in runs scored, 14th in the NL in homers and 14th in OBP. They were 14th in ERA, at 4.65, while the Cubs were fifth, at 3.80. The Cubs traded Hart to the Pirates on July 30 and beat him 8-5 in Pittsburgh on Sept. 9.

Next: Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field, Sunday-Thursday

There are names, and there are labels.

The name is Jake Fox, actually Jacob Fox.

That name, Jacob Fox, is a famous one in Chicago sports history. Think on that a minute, and we'll come back to it.

Jake Fox of the Cubs is trying to make a name for himself in major-league baseball. At the same time, he's trying to shed some labels that remain stuck to him as he concludes his seventh year of pro ball.

The 27-year-old Fox has heard them all: good hitter, poor fielder, man without a position and DH.

"I think everybody deals with labels," Fox said on the Cubs' just-concluded road trip. "That's one of the hard parts about this game coming up, because this game is based on evaluation. Scout evaluation, coach evaluation, your whole game is based on evaluation. So when you have a label, it follows you.

"It's very difficult to get over those labels, but I think you can. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of hard work. I think that's one of the reasons why my playing time has been slow, because I'm still dealing with some of those labels.

"But at the same time it gives me something to work for and gives me some motivation in the off-season to get better at breaking whatever labels might be on me."

Fox is batting .275 with 11 home runs, 43 RBI, a .322 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .495, fueled by those homers and 12 doubles.

During the road trip, Fox hit a game-winning, 2-run homer in St. Louis, and he had a 2-RBI game in San Francisco.

Fox has played five different positions. Included was his major-league debut at catcher, the position the Cubs took him at in the third round of the 2003 draft.

The organization soured on him as a backstop, so he has a sporting-goods store full of gloves in his locker as he also has seen time at first base, third base, left field and right field.

If the Cubs tell you he can't play any of them, Fox might tell you he can play them all.

That might be his own way of overcoming those sticky labels.

"I don't think I've overcome them, but I think I'm showing them I'm getting better and I'm willing to work," he said. "I think the biggest label I have is 'poor defensive player.'

"I feel I'm showing them I can play a defensive position on a daily basis, and I'm showing enough improvement where they know I'm going to work hard enough to overcome those labels and work hard enough to not be a liability in the field."

To that end, Fox says he will head to the Dominican Republic and play winter ball.

"I've just got to play," he said. "Get more innings. Get more at-bats and be more consistent. I've always said that, at this level, it's always about coming out and being consistent every day.

"That's one of the things I've got to work on this off-season, making sure I come out every day with consistency, give a consistent performance every day I come out here."

Will Fox ever settle at one position?

"That's not a question for me," he said with a laugh. "I don't know. Hopefully they use the fact that I can be versatile. But at the same time, hopefully, they'll let me be an everyday player.

"Obviously, I'll take whatever job they give me. At the same time, everybody strives to have an everyday job. If that everyday job is moving around and giving other guys days off, that's fine.

"I hope someday that I'll have a position and that I can concentrate on one position. But for right now I think it brings a lot of value to them to be able to play multiple positions."

Fox also has been labeled on the way up as "stubborn" or "uncoachable" as he insisted he could catch. He also raised a few eyebrows, but won some admiration, for marching into manager Lou Piniella's office a couple of years ago and asking for more playing time in spring training.

"I've always believed that there are only two things you can control on the field: your attitude and your effort," Fox said. "That being said, when somebody tells you that you can't do something or you're not good enough to do something, there are two ways to go: Either you can say, 'You know what? I'm going to give it everything I've got, and I'm going to overcome this.' Or you say, 'You know what? Maybe you're right. I'll try something different.'

"I've never been a guy to turn and run from anything."

Now about that name. Fox shares the same first and last name of White Sox Hall of Famer Jacob "Nellie" Fox. A native of Indianapolis, the Cubs' Fox says it's a coincidence, but one he enjoys.

"I knew that," he said of his name. "My grandparents went to Cooperstown when I was real young, and (the Hall of Fame) sells those little cards in the gift shop.

"They brought me one back of Jacob Nelson Fox. Jacob Nelson 'Nellie' Fox. So I always knew there was a Jacob Fox in the Hall of Fame. I thought that was really cool. I still actually have a card at home, but I always thought that was really cool."