One of the things I stand in awe of most about big-league baseball players is probably one of the things they take most for granted: their ability to step, without much thought, at least very close if not directly into the path of a Major League pitch or hit.
I only realized it last summer, but a Major League pitch actually makes a noise in the air. A kind of terrifying "whzzz" sound like you'd picture a bullet making. I honestly don't know how you can be a hitter and stand in its path. I'd duck and run screaming every time.
So last night, when a pitch from Blue Jays' closer Miguel Batista screamed in like a heat-seeking missile and knocked Bill Mueller's left foot completely out from under him with a sickening "thump", dropping him like a sack of bricks to writhe in pain next to the plate, I had a visceral sympathetic reaction. My entire body quite literally cringed and I got the shivers.
Then, I was blindly, irrationally mad. I had gotten irritated with the Queer Eye guys for making Tim Wakefield holler, "OW!" when they waxed his eyebrows in a preview segment for the show I saw on Channel 7 last night. Seeing Bill Mueller squirming in the dirt made me furious--mother-bear-protecting-cubs furious. I understand that injuries are a part of sports, but when they happen to my team, I wish there was someone I could hurt back.
Buelly's foot will be fine, according to everyone today. He will probably even play tonight (and get Pissing Contest points over Kevin Millar, who did not play Sunday after fouling a pitch off his instep the night before). But that wasn't the only painful thing about last night, anyway, and the other problems don't look to be healing as fast.
Let's forget (for the sake of my sanity if not yours) that the Red Sox and Blue Jays actually appeared to be on a level together last night, trading leads throughout the game. Let's forget that David Wells still appears to be floundering. What I want to address instead is the fact that Alan Embree--Alan. Embree.--was on the mound for the ninth in a tie ballgame.
Is that really how little we trust Keith Foulke now? I ranted about the utter lack of forebearance for Foulke in various places all day yesterday, and last night, in a situation the closer was absolutely invented for, we get...Embree?
It's not just that Embree gave up a seemingly inevitable three-run walkoff. It's that he was even out there in the first place in a situation that screamed for Foulke--who has admittedly not been himself, but who has not been that bad.
Before you all start screaming at once, consider this: Foulke's teams have been 9-3 in the past seven years when he blows a save. He actually tied BJ Ryan of the Orioles for the most saves in May (thanks to vultured wins, but still).
I'm not going to sit here and say that the Foulke of this spring is the Foulke of last October. But shouldn't the Foulke not just of last October but of his entire stellar Major League career count for something? The guy has been fucking cast-iron nails for all but the last two months of his career. It's well-known that he's going through a divorce, and rumors are even reaching me that it is ugly (and I'm about as far out of the loop as it gets). To me, given these circumstances, there are two things most grievously wrong with tossing Embree out there last night: 1) Embree is not a preferable alternative, as we saw, even given Foulke's struggles and 2) Foulke is never going to improve without the chance to work.
Yeah, yeah, Renteria fans are saying. Nice hypocrisy. And okay, I'll admit that Foulke is totally my binky and I'm on the verge of irrationality when it comes to him. But at least let me get up on my soapbox here and tell you why I think he deserves just a little more credit than most.
Because Keith Foulke is it. He is the Once and Future Red Sox. He is quite possibly the most important Red Sox of the past 86 years. He is the reason--the biggest reason, at least--that we finally won last year. He is the reverse of the so-called Curse.
Had there been a Keith Foulke--or his equivalent--in 1986, there would have been none of this.
In 2003, none of this.
It hasn't just been Foulke's presence--his virtually unheard-of 100 pitches in 48 hours of the ALCS--that has changed the fate of the team. His absence before last year was the key to their failure.
Like I said, he's it. He's the answer to the riddle. He's the piece that solves the puzzle. It's that simple.
We're really going to go back to that after two bad months?