Even after only two years and Cardinals exit, why Fowler is beloved by Cubs fans

If there was ever a player who could go from the Cubs to the Cardinals -- or vice versa -- and still be beloved by the former team, it's Dexter Fowler.

The "you go, we go" Cubs leadoff man, who led off for the lineup that won the Cubs the 2016 World Series signed a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Cardinals on Friday.

My fandom is no secret and while it was jarring to see Fowler donning that Cardinals jersey in the press conference, there was zero ill will. I mean, how could anyone be mad at Fowler? Consider the circumstances:

1. The Cubs traded for him one year away from free agency.

2. He had a great 2015 second half, helping propel the Cubs to the NLCS.

3. He turned down a three-year deal worth more than $30 million from the Orioles to return to the Cubs on a one-year deal.

4. The Cubs won the World Series in 2016 with him having perhaps his best season ever.

5. The Cubs didn't offer him anything in free agency.

I wasn't alone. I perused Fowler's Twitter mentions and here's just a quick sampling of how it looked:

No, those aren't cherry-picked. That was basically his entire feed from Cubs fans. No burning jerseys. No "traitor!" screams. No "screw you." Just "thank you."

The casual fan might see Fowler's two-year line in Chicago at .261/.367/.427 and wonder what all the fuss is about. First off, the first half of 2015 (.232/.308/.367) is badly dragging that down. Secondly, this was arguably the best two-year window for the Cubs in franchise history (sure, it's worse record-wise than anywhere in the 1906-10 period, but consider the circumstances here).

Further, this isn't even totally about Fowler's on-field value. We aren't exactly talking about Mike Trout here and no one is pretending otherwise. Sometimes it's more than that.

Being part of that team means every single 2016 Cubs player has a "legacy" in Wrigleyville, but Fowler is one of the special ones. He's a happy-go-lucky good guy and good teammate. In fact, a friend of mine (what up, McClellan?) played with Fowler on the Rockies a few years ago. He's gone out of his way multiple times to tell me Fowler was one of the best teammate he ever had.

Fowler has fun when he plays. He's easy to root for. He was the man at the top that made the lineup go. "You go, we go" is what manager Joe Maddon would say to him and Fowler embraced that. It was never on display more perfectly than here, when Fowler made World Series history with the first-ever Game 7 leadoff homer:

That alone cemented Fowler's legacy in Chicago forever. It didn't matter where he signed after the season, even if it was St. Louis.

Again, the response to Fowler signing with the Cardinals illustrates this. He'll forever be special for Cubs fans.

I'll conclude with an anecdote that will make sense in a second. I promise.

A few years back in our annual fantasy baseball draft, I took a guy my brother had owned for like three consecutive seasons. This is one of those fantasy drafts where everyone is in person, we grill out, drink beer and make fun of each others' picks. After I took my brother's guy, he started to walk over toward me. I thought he was gonna start calling me profane names. It's customary at these drafts, after all. Instead, he just smiled and said, "you're gonna enjoy him."

When it comes to Dexter Fowler, Cardinals fans, you're gonna enjoy him. Cubs fans certainly did and will never forget it.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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