Kosuke Fukudomefallen onto hard times. Not financially, of course; Fukudome's 4-year, $48 million contract should buy plenty of protection against a sudden world economic crisis. But emotionally, spiritually, Fukudome's had as ugly an end to his first season in Chicago as any player in recent memory.
Fukudome's entry to the Cubs, and his first few months, screamed success. His home runs and gap power and pinpoint pitch selection and consummate defensive ability seemed to fit the exact bill of what Cubs fans expected to get with their first Japanese signing. And he fast become a crowd favorite -- headbands, t-shirts, all of the stuff that comes with being a demigod in the midst of a Cubs winning year. Fukudome had it all.
Then he struggled. And struggled some more. And then by the end of September he was just plain bad and showed no signs of getting better.
In the playoffs, he didn't: He went 0-8, Lou Piniella got angry, and you know the rest.
But here's my question -- despite all that, despite all the disappointment, can we forgive Fukudome? Because the man issued an apology today, one that seems genuine. But is it enough?
The answer of course is no. Cubs fans like to form at a minute's notice and hold onto to them them in perpetuity. I fear those who were Fukudome's most ardent supporters will now be his most vocal detractors, that no amount of apology or seeming remorse will get the Japanese player off the hook.
Unless, obviously, Fukudome rebounds next year. That might solve a few things. It shouldn't take even that much, though. Cubs fans ought to be able to shrug this sort of thing off. But I'm afraid they won't.