Sunday, February 18, 2007

100 Greatest Red Sox >> #76 Keith Foulke

Keith Foulke, P, #29 (2004-2006)

159 G, 13-9, 58 Saves, 3.74 ERA

In sporting commentary there is a popular cliche where the commentator says 'Fans of (team X) are very divided on (player X)'. When it comes to Red Sox fans and Keith Charles Foulke, the split isn't as much 50/50 for/against as it is 80/20 against/for.

Keith Foulke was a Boston player between 2004 and 2006, two years of much drama and controversy indeed. If he had left Boston in 2004 he would have left a hero. Instead, after two years battling knee, arm and back injuries along with a problematic personal life, Foulke left town for the Cleveland Indians with the majority of the Boston media and a sadly large proportion of Boston's fans only too happy to show him the way out.

Taking a step back, Foulke's legacy will always be the awesome 2004 campaign he turned in for the Red Sox. When the Sox attempts to run the closer position 'by committee' in 2003 failed miserably they set their minds to bring in a shut-down closer in the offseason. Foulke signed on from Oakland and promptly gave Boston fans exactly what they wanted, a dominant closer.

In 2004, his first year with the Red Sox, Keith saved 32 games in 39
opportunities while racking up 79 strikeouts and a regal 2.17 ERA across 83 innings. His numbers were fantastic but he was only getting started. In the 2004 postseason, Foulke appeared in 11 of 14 games turning his own game up to another level, throwing 257 pitches over 14 innings. He clocked up 19 strikeouts in those 14 innings, and over the entire stretch, allow exactly one earned run on a completely meaningless solo shot long ball. At the time many in the media (who were about to drop verbal napalm all over him for the next two years) believed he should have been named the World Series MVP over Manny Ramirez.

I will never, ever forget the 2004 playoff run Keith Foulke had. From his uplifting strike out of Tony Clark with the Sox in big, big trouble against the Yankees, to his absolute abuse of a totally over matched Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen in the World Series proper, Foulke had an entirely sensational 2004 playoffs.

On October 31, 2004 Jim McBride of the Boston Globe announced:

"It's unlikely Foulke, an avid hockey fan, will have to pick up a check in town for quite a while."

Just recently, Foulke filed for free agency and is no longer a Red Sox player. His manager had this to say as reported by Tony Massaroti of the Boston Herald;

"I don’t want to forget -- or have anybody else forget -- what he accomplished here," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said late yesterday. "It was phenomenal what he did here in 2004. I mean phenomenal. We don’t win anything without him."

Happy ending so, a player who should be forever remembered as a hero to the Red Sox 'nation', heads off into the sunset, his managers accolades ringing in our ears? Apparently not. As Foulke filed for free agency, Tony Massaroti actually said;

"Now Foulke is gone and here is the truly amazing thing: No one is shedding a tear. Not Foulke, not Epstein, not anyone who has watched the Red Sox over the past two seasons."

He followed up that completely, self revealed erroneous statement (he had just reported that Francona was indeed very sad to see him go) with this sanctimonious rubbish:

"That might all be considered sad were it not for the simple fact that Foulke brought so much of this upon himself."

If Massaroti had taken a step back and considered real life for a brief second he would have realised Foulke was hit by knee injuries, arm problems and a debilitating divorce in 2005. There is no doubt his acerbic personality didn't exactly demand that people support him, but there was no reason for the 'Shock and awe' campaign most of the New England media launched on him. He did not 'bring it on himself', if anything all that he proved was his inability to eloquently defend himself in the face of mounting criticism.

If only people would take Foulke's comments in perspective. From 2005 on he was wound up, frustrated and disappointed. He made some poorly thought out, throw away comments and probably instantly regretted them himself. The irony is most of them are actually reasonably amusing if you take a deep breath and avoid the 'cast the first stone' mentality.

Keith Foulke is a baseball player. He is not a journalist, a reporter or a politician. He does not have time to create measured, careful comments. He doesn't get to sit behind a keyboard and pick apart every single word that comes from someones mouth. Further still, he is not paid to be a spokesperson for anyone. Nowhere in his contract does it say that he should be an eloquent speaker on behalf of anyone. He is what he is, he is paid to throw the ball past Major League batters. End of story.

The slating he took, and still takes, for some acerbic, muddled and yes, regrettable comments, is completely out of order and uncalled for. It is shooting ducks in a barrel and the glee which people like Massoroti, Dan 'negativity' Shaughnessy and the unfailingly negative 'Boston Dirt Dogs' site ride the comments to personal gain is absolutely unnecessary. Further more, particularly on the parts of established journalists like Shaugnessy and Massaroti, it is shockingly lazy.

Keith Foulke throws the final pitches on Opening Day, 2005 (4/11/05)
Taken by Scott Norwood

Why didn't those who were so quick to latch onto this totally inane and substance-light story give any air time to Foulke's explanation of the comment?

Given time to respond Keith Foulke said at the time;

"Yeah, I apologize to those people. You know what, the whole, like I said, the whole part. It was part of a joke and once again the media goes out there. They don’t print the first part of the joke where it puts people in the funny mood. It started off with 'I’m not inviting him, I’m not inviting the people that are booing me, I’m not inviting them to my World Series party.'… That’s where the joke starts. And the last line is kind of a follow-up line. If you don’t hear the first part, yeah you may not understand the second part. You gotta take the whole thing and evaluate the whole sentence. Not just part of it."

Clearly the whole story just isn't as dramatic when balanced out with either the entire quote, or Keith's explanation. So instead of actually giving us the whole story we were treated to part of it to validate certain journalists days work, to make them feel better about themselves and what they do.

Sadly I guess that's how it works. Foulke gets absolutely destroyed for a spoken, spur of the moment comment, while journalists can make thought-out comments that are the equal and if not worse of Foulke's and get away with it completely. They actually get paid for this Calvinistic, mid eighties 'woe is me' trash, and no one takes them to task over their often lazy, irresponsible and self serving writing. The amazing propensity for Boston scribes to find ways to attack Foulke is mind boggling. Take Massaroti's feeble summing up of the personality of Keith Foulke;

"Off the field, for whatever reason, Foulke seemed perpetually grumpy and displeased."

Right, so, I guess everybody has to smile for the camera, Tony? Massaroti admits in his column; "Foulke battled injuries to his knees, back and arm" and it is common knowledge that Foulke went through a very bitter divorce proceeding in 2005. However, I guess he should dance around happily like Homer does for Marge, singing;

"Look at me! I'm making people happy! I'm the magical man from Happy Land in a gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane!"

Maybe if Keith had adopted that false strategy everything would have worked out fine, and the media would have left him alone to deal with his personal issues and injuries and would have dealt with him for what he is, a baseball player.

A pitcher that was one of the main reasons the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

Sadly, it appears we live in a world where journalists like Massaroti ascribe to another Homer Simpson quote;

"Sometimes the only way you can feel good about yourself is by making someone else look bad."

There is a scene in 'The Departed' where Matt Damon and a few other State Troopers sit in an office with this below exact picture clearly in the background. That's Keith Foulke, celebrating making the last out of the 2004 World Series.

With Foulke, "It is what it is", he is a baseball player and if you are a Red Sox fan he delivered, on a plate, your wildest dreams. Take it all for what it is, let those who need sensationalist, false and doctored stories to further their careers do so on their own.

Always remember this picture and just move on.

This Top 100 Red Sox of all time profile was written by Cormac Eklof @ ''I didn't know there was baseball in Ireland?!''


Brian said...

Great bio...none of us need to know t he details of his time with the Red Sox. We all already know them. So that worked out really well.

Over the last few years I've come to realize just how much the media can put their spin on things. I noticed that when I read too much and I'm not careful I start to not like guys like Manny, Pedro, and Foulke. There is so much negativity out there that it's hard to not get taken in. And I don't even read DirtDogs (personally I think you really have to be a braindead moron to head over to that site). That's why I like blogs. The bloggers of Red Sox Nation aren't trying to sell any papers and they're not trying to say something stupid just to shock you. Sometimes it's best to take a step back, not read much in the papers, and just enjoy the fact that Manny is a helluva player and a lot of fun to watch and Foulke was a huge part of '04 and not just some prick who made a few comments.

Cormac said...

''The bloggers of Red Sox Nation aren't trying to sell any papers and they're not trying to say something stupid just to shock you.''

Really great point. Nicely put. I hope in time Foulke is viewed more for what he did in '04 than the rest of the dross being printed about him.

John said...

How ironic that news of Keith Foulke's retirement is in the news. I'd love to write to him and thank him for all he did in 2004. Anyone have an idea how to reach him, maybe through the Indians organization?

Anonymous said...

Outstanding article. I totally agree that Foulkie got sold out by the press. He obviously would have been better served if he avoided the press altogether--he isn't the most articulate guy on the planet and, as you said, the press had a field day picking him apart. I will never forget Foulkie's performance in 2004--he, along with Schilling, were the true heroes of that magical year and both of their uniforms hang in a place of honor in my den. One of my biggest thrills was catching his eye during the parade and screaming "Foulkie, you are the man!" at him and seeing the big grin on his face. It's truly a shame to see how things fell apart for him and he reacted as a warrior would react--pissed off, frustrated, down on himself. Who can blame him. God bless you Foulkie--your place in Red Sox history is secure.

Shelly said...

Great Job. I am a fan of Keith Foulke. He was one of our boys and nothing he ever said will change the way I think of him.

Pete214 said...

Keith showed real class in retiring instead of just taking the five-mil from either team. How often does that happen? The Bosox should retire his number, at a minimum. Just as they in the front office finally came to realize that it was the players they had in ’04 that won the series--not any miraculous insights or managerial gifts they possessed as they seemed to think all through '05 & ‘06--they should wise up to the fact that they should have given Keith all the credit for the '04 post-season he justly deserved at the time. Let’s see, without Keith in ’04; from 1918 to 2007 is… Unlike Buckner, they weren’t out of position and had plenty of time to think about it.

allan said...

the split isn't as much 50/50 for/against as it is 80/20 against/for

80/20? Really? I think this is dead wrong. (Who are those 80?)

In the middle of the ALCS, he threw 100 do-or-die pitches in about 48 hours. The man ruined his arm/career bringing us the championship we wondered if we'd ever see.

What any Red Sox fan has to hold against Foulke is beyond me.

When I think of 2004, he's right up there alongside Ortiz, maybe higher.

Cormac said...

''In the middle of the ALCS, he threw 100 do-or-die pitches in about 48 hours. The man ruined his arm/career bringing us the championship we wondered if we'd ever see.''

amen...very well put

Anonymous said...

One of the best articles I've ever read on Foulke. Thank you. I just saw him pitch on Father's Day 2009. When he walked off the field I approached him, wearing my Red Sox 29 shirt, he smiled and waived and then graciously signed a 2004 photo of him and Tek celebrating the sweep in St. Louis. "Back to Foulke" is still the best thing I ever heard an announcer say.

Serena said...

Pretty effective data, thank you for this post.

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