Today we take a look back to the days of TOOTBLANs, funny sounding names, and skinny middle infielders. The gritty double-play combination of Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot often get lumped together as players that overachieved during their time spent at the Friendly Confines. But while neither was a guy that was an All-Star caliber player, they were two players that were fan favorites during their time in Chicago.
Both Theriot and Fontenot were drafted in June of 2001, Theriot a third round selection by Chicago and Fontenot the first round pick and 18th overall by the Baltimore Orioles. Fontenot was acquired by the Cubs four years later in 2005 as a part of the deal that also sent Jerry Hairston over in return for one of the greatest Cubs of all time, Slammin’ Sammy Sosa.
That 2005 season was the year that saw both players make their Major League debut. By 2007 the two had cemented their place as the double play combo for Lou Piniella, but it was not the first time that they were partners up the middle.
After playing second base for the very prestigious Lousianna State baseball team in 1999, Theriot shifted over to shortstop during his sophomore season allowing for incoming freshman Mike Fontenot to slide in at the keystone. Theriot and Fontenot spent all of the 2000 and 2001 seasons as teammates for the LSU Tigers before that June 2001 draft.
Theriot spent five and a half seasons in Chicago, putting up a total slash line of .287/.350/.362/.712. With no All-Star appearances or awards, The Riot might be entirely forgotten one day but until then we can always remember his best season for those eventually disappointing 2008 Cubs where he put up a .307/.387/.359/.745 slash line with 22 stolen bases and more walks than strikeouts, good for a .
Just like his buddy, Fontenot spent five and a half seasons in Chicago. His career slash line was not all that different either, reading .269/.338/.419/.757. His best season also came in 2008, in only 119 games though. That memorable season he slashed .305/.395/.514/.909 with 9 bombs and 22 doubles, good for a .
Both players saw a drop off in their production in the seasons after 2008, and forced the front office to make a decision based off of whether they thought the 2008 season was a fluke for the middle infield or something they could eventually get back to. Each player was dealt in 2010 to the NL West.
Ryan Theriot was a part of the deal that sent Ted Lilly to the Dodgers. The return? None other than Blake DeWitt. Mike Fontenot was traded about a month later to the Giants for a minor leaguer by the name of Evan Crawford, who never saw a level higher than Class A Advanced during his career.
After the trade, Theriot bounced around from the Dodgers to the Cardinals to the Giants. He got significant playing time at each stop, but was never a full-time starter again. Starter or not, The Riot was able to win a World Series as a part of the 2012 Giants. He was never one to keep quiet on things he believed in, as he was quoted ripping the Chicago Cubs in addition to his frequent complaints about playing time.
Fontenot took up shop in several different cities as well for the remainder of his career. After Chicago, he spent time in the Giants, Phillies, Rays, and Nationals organizations. He took home a World Series ring as a part of the 2010 Giants team.
Maybe it was their grit. Maybe it was their scrappiness. It very well could have been because they were two guys that look like you and me due to their slight stature. Whatever it was, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot will always be remembered as fan favorites from the moment they stepped on the field.