Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keith Foulke Appreciation Post

I've had the Internet as my platform for the past five years, and as you all know, we are stepping away in a few weeks.  We started doing this a little while after Keith Foulke threw his last pitch in Boston, so I never really got to broadcast this opinion when it was pertinent.  So before I sign off, I have to put it out there:  Keith Foulke deserves your adulation.

I will never forget the infamous "Johnny from Burger King" game on June 28th because I was there.  After a really disheartening, deflating game that was really, for all intents and purposes, the end of Keith Foulke's career in Boston, I got some disheartening girl-related news on a bus ride home with a large group.  Let's say it was tantamount to Jose Contreras signing somewhere else, minus the creepy parallel of renting out every other room in his hotel room.  This news pretty much reinforced the way I already felt after the game.  It was not enfuriating.  It was not maddening.  It was just a deflating, disappointing, disheartening game.  They had a commanding lead over a crappy Indians team, not mailing it in after being down 3-0 and 4-3 to go up 8-5 in the sixth.  Then Timlin coughed up some runs, then Foulke blew the save, and then Foulke gave up a grand slam to Travis Hafner.  After ending the inning, Foulke was booed off the field, while I was in a minority who was just flat-out upset.

The pitcher took offense to it and said, after the game, that he didn't think he deserved to get booed by "Johnny from Burger King."  Unlike Youkilis, he didn't complain about his privacy.  Unlike Ortiz, he didn't complain about his contract.  Unlike Adrian Gonzalez, he didn't blame ESPN's Sunday Night schedule.  He was just frustrated.  Unlike JD Drew, he actually cared about playing well on the field, and unlike 46, he actually gave a crap that he let his team down.  Honestly, the infamous "Johnny from Burger King" comment sounded more like Jonathan "The Only Accountable Red Sox" Papelbon than anything else.  He had pitched the entire season injured, and had two knee surgeries after the season.

I thought Keith Foulke deserved a little better than what he got that night, considering (especially looking back on it) he sacrificed his career to win the 2004 World Series. 

Say what you want about pink hats - and I have - but this was returning to pre-2004 vitriol from Red Sox fans.  And it was just plain not justified, because he left his arm and his legs in 2004.  It was evident by May 2005 that he had little to anything left, and we had just watched the ERA creep up and up and up until the June 28th implosion.  Eight months earlier, Foulke threw literally 250 maximum-leverage pitches in three weeks (did John Lackey do that at all this year?) from a frame the size of Rheal Cormier's.  Daniel Bard would have balked during half of these situations just so he could vomit on the side of the mound. 

Foulke also got the job done both before his Red Sox career and during the 2004 regular season.  He was key in stabilizing Chicago's bullpen, and he was one of the original Moneyball guys when he went to Oakland in 2003.  He was effective, and he provided stability in that bullpen after Theo Epstein and Bill James's "Bullpen By Committee" experiment, Byung-Hyun Kim, and not a hint of stability since (another undersized guy) Tom Gordon blew his arm out against the Atlanta Braves.  He absolutely should have won 2004 World Series MVP as a culmination of his postseason performance that very well may stack up (if you're into comparing apples and oranges) of any single Derek Jeter postseason.

I understand the hate of Johnny Damon, although I think a lot of it is misdirected (more on that later on).  But there's no reason Keith Foulke should have gotten the same treatment.  For Foulke, it was one comment.  And he gave you his career.

Foulke was also a success story because he sort of was the Dustin Pedroia of relief pitchers.  He was completely undersized, his fastball may have hit 90 at the peak of his career, but he just somehow found a way to get guys out.  Your guess is as good as mine had he stayed healthy - whether he'd continue to do what he did or whether he'd get "figured out" a la Okajima.  But he didn't because he sacrificed his career in October, 2004.  He did it for his teammates.  He did it for the World Series.  And yes, Johnny from Burger King, he did it for you.

So Keith Foulke, from one fan out in Section 31 that night who was more upset than inclined to hammer you (and if I had a blog back then, I'd probably feel the same way), I just want to say thanks.  It may be a small place on the Internet, but your accomplishments, your attitude, your passion toward your job, your career-long body of work, and - most importantly, your sacrifice - are appreciated.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

DV

Guys who left Boston like Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez--I can understand why people turned on them. I don't necessarily agree, but I can understand. With Damon he told the fans six months earlier that he would NEVER play for the Yankees. Oops. And with Manny he more or less quit on the team in an attempt to extort them. As far as I'm concerned, they were both great in Boston (Manny obviously was much, much more important--you can legitimately argue that he was the second best Red Sox of all-time. Not saying he was, but the argument is viable) and were focal points of championships. That's what really counts to me. But as I said earlier, I can see how people were really pissed off at those two guys.

However, with players like Nomar, Mo Vaughn, and Keith Foulke, the venom directed towards those guys lends a lot of credence to the notion that the Boston media is a miserable group of people and that the fans are entirely unreasonable. We've talked about Nomar before. We have not talked about Mo (but I'll just say this much--he was great in Boston--he was my first favorite player, and the fact that the '95 Red Sox won the AL East just shows you how good that guy was), and we will talk about Keith Foulke--everything you wrote about him was true. He gave up ONE run in 14 postseason innings in 2004. And on top of that he threw all of those pitches in Games 4, 5, and 6 of the ALCS, all on consecutive days. No Foulke, no 2004 World Series. It's that simple. Was he the best player on that team? No, but he was damn good all year long and he was even better when it really counted. Moreover, the Burger King comment was so innocuous that it's amazing that anyone was offended by that. All he said was that he was more worried about letting his teammates down (as he should be) than worrying about what some random dude on the street thought of him. And yet he got slaughtered for it. Just a completely unreasonable development.

At the end of the day anybody who really watched the Red Sox at that time knows this much--Keith Foulke was good, he was clutch, he was tough, and he cared. That's more than enough for me as a fan.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

Thanks for the comment. I agree with almost everything. I'll tell you what I disagree with you later on in this comment.

Your use of "extort" regarding Manny Ramirez is perfect, because that's exactly what he was doing. I'm pissed that I wasn't using "extortion" in my posts when that stuff was going down. Giving up on the team was part of Manny and his agent's contract negotiations, and that's downright disgusting. That's okay, though, because your boy 46 endorses that kind of behavior by retaining said agent. Also, regarding Damon, you already know how I feel: I don't kill him for chasing the dollar; I kill him for talking contract fifteen minutes after getting swept by Chicago and I kill him for running his mouth nonstop about how much the Red Sox disrespected him. Shut up.

Foulke was a victim.

Mo Vaughn was not. While Foulke said one stupid thing (I will not deny that the Johnny from Burger King comment was dumb), Mo said and did a lot of stupid things. He said it wasn't about the money. He referred to "dumb, stupid Boston fans," he blamed the Boston media on his father's health issues, and he flipped over his car hammered on his way home from a strip club.

Similar, but not the same situation.