You're going to just have to tolerate more Foulke-fixation from me.
Questioners given stiff-arm
Foulke denies seeing a specialist
TORONTO -- Keith Foulke and Red Sox manager Terry Francona yesterday adamantly denied a rumor, started on the Internet and propagated on Boston talk radio, that Foulke traveled to Alabama Monday to have his shoulder looked at by noted orthopedist James Andrews.
''What I'll say is there's nothing remotely close to seeing a doctor that is close to being correct," Francona said. ''Other than that I'll let Foulkey respond to that how he wishes. The part about the doctor is so inaccurate that it's a shame. That's inaccurate. It's just wrong."
Foulke said he did go to Alabama Monday but to visit a barbecue restaurant called Happy Day, not Andrews's American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, which uses the newest technologies to analyze a pitcher's delivery.
''It's a non-issue," Foulke said. ''I did not see a doctor."
Asked about it following last night's loss to the Blue Jays, Foulke answered, ''You're not going to break me."
Francona, asked whether Foulke visited ASMI Monday, refused to answer, deferring questions to Foulke.
The Sox were in Cooperstown, N.Y., Monday for the Hall of Fame game against the Tigers, but Foulke was one of a handful of Sox players excused for assorted reasons. Foulke was excused for a personal reason, something he said was none of the media's -- and by extension, the fans' -- business.
Francona got somewhat agitated when asked if Foulke's shoulder was sore.
''No," the manager said, insisting that Foulke's rough start is purely a product of poor mechanics and execution. ''I think we've been talking all along, that out of his glove to the release point has been very inconsistent. I've said it 10 times. It's been a battle."
Foulke pitched the eighth inning last night and retired all three batters, lowering his ERA to 6.95.
Listen. The Red Sox are my favorite soap opera. And Foulke has become my favorite character.
I don't know when my fixation with him started exactly, although it was sometime last season when I started to notice what an interesting figure he was, his body language quirky, the way he threw so totally different, and yeah, the way he filled out his home whites didn't hurt.
Then, last post-season, with what he did...it was the way Curt Schilling said it, later:
My overriding picture of the postseason was the ninth inning of any game, with Keith Foulke on the mound with the ball. To me there should be another award, he should have been the World Series MVP. Manny had a great World Series, he deserved it. But Folkey was the staple for us.
Every night when we walked off the field as winners it was because he shut the door, and seeing him with the ball in his hand... The guy had about a 12.00 ERA in spring training. I'm watching him in spring training going, 'Oh my gosh, man this guy is struggling.' And then here he is in the biggest games in the history of the franchise, night after night after night shutting people down.
This season, he is at the center of the story for me, not least, of course, because the entire team's fate may hinge on his performance, but more because of the human element. I am desperately curious to know what's going on (and pissed...pissed that I will miss Dennis Eckersley's scheduled discussion of his mechanics tonight on NESN, although I may tape it or try to catch it online). Last night, Remy and Orsillo touched on a few of the issues with his mechanics--the release point not as high, his arm not quite as straight behind him, the glove not held up by his ear. The bottom line? He's drooping. Physically, he's wilting. That's what it looks like, whether that's actually mechanically what's happening.
And meta-physically? My God, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that there is something very wrong. This is probably old news to many of you, but I actually missed all the games where Foulke blew saves, etc. and really haven't seen him much this season for myself. I can't speculate on what it is. But there is something Wrong.
grunherz put it in a way I've been mulling over quite a bit since reading it on the SG Message board:
Foulke on WEEI right now. He just sounds depressed.
Not, I-screwed-up-day-before-yesterday depressed.
I mean genuinely depressed.
He seriously needs a hug or something.
And now...going to Alabama...I'm so intrigued. It could not be less my business, but I am dying to know what happened in Alabama. Was he going to talk to someone? See something? Going just to get away? That's the problem with this being sports and not a soap opera--there will be no expository monologue.
Whatever it was, I hope it helped, truly. And I hope more of it is coming. Because yesterday was the first time I have really sat and watched him intently since Spring Training, and I was shocked at what I saw. Last year, he was a sweating, spitting, cocky machine out there, staring down his nose at batters, humiliating them as they swung blindly for his change-up, bidding them adieu with a sneer and a contemptuous "hoochhh..."
That's why I came to love him. That swagger. Last night it was like looking at a different person. Last night, despite a problem-free inning (not that the game wasn't problem-free, of course), he came out and looked as if he was going through the motions with the absolute minimum of interest. On one flyout, he didn't even turn around, and it was a jarring sight--I'm used to the pitcher wheeling around on the mound whenever a ball is hit almost as if that's part of what causes the ball to fly. Walking off, shoulders slumped, hand over his mouth, his every move said, "Sorry."
I'm not mad at him. Really, I'm not. I'm not frustrated or ready to get rid of him or ready to write him off the way some people seem to be. But I am concerned. I am genuinely worried about him, not just as a ballplayer but as a person I admire.
"They love you like you're their own kid." That's what Schilling said about Boston fans. But, of course, not really. We don't. We can't. They feel like our buddies, they're recognizeable like that, they're people we see every day, even if it's on TV, and we all develop imagined relationships with them to some degree. This or that player becomes our favorite, this or that one becomes our heel, and most often it's arbitrary--our own projections played out on players who become not people to us, but characters. And when something like this happens, it snaps into difficult focus the fact that we have no clue who they really are--that we may think we "know" them, but that most if not all of the time, we simply have no idea.