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Dexter Fowler's frustration shows in loss

CHICAGO -- It's not the first time Chicago Cubs centerfielder Dexter Fowler has bitten his tongue after a frustrating day at the plate. Fowler struck out looking three times in Friday's 1-0 loss to the White Sox, and let's just say a couple of those strike-three calls by home plate umpire Dan Bellino were questionable.

"I had some good ABs [at-bats]," Fowler said to reporters on his way out of the locker room after the game. "I can walk out [of here] and say that."

What he can't say is the strike zone has been all over the place this season, as players and team officials face stiff penalties for criticizing umpires publicly. Maybe it's been the same for everyone, but it seems to have affected the Cubs leadoff hitter more than most.

"It's not my call," Fowler continued. "You take the ABs you want to take. I've been doing it my whole career, and I'm going to keep doing it."

And that's where the mystery begins. Fowler is having the worst season of his career as he plays for a new contract. His on-base percentage is about 60 points off his career average and almost 70 points down from last year's .375 mark. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is 2.31, by far the highest of his career. He's been caught looking over 31 percent of the time, also the highest. It doesn't make much sense.

"You always have frustration when you don't get the job done, but we'll be fine," manager Joe Maddon said diplomatically.

You probably fall into one camp or the other: Is Fowler getting an inordinate amount of bad calls, or is he just bad? Video doesn't lie. The last two called third strikes on him on Friday were suspicious, including a key eighth-inning pitch that looked below the strike zone. It wasn't long ago that Fowler and a few other hitters had a meeting with Joe Torre, who handles baseball operations for Major League Baseball. They wanted to voice their concerns over the strike zone, and after the meeting, Fowler seemed to have better results. He had five walks and five hits in nine game this month before Friday's debacle.

"I looked at the video," Fowler said. "He made the calls. Whatever he calls, that's the way it goes."

Does Fowler have a point, or is this all an excuse for a bad season?

It's clear where Fowler's wife, Aliya, stands.