...And instead choosing to focus on the positive:
Keith Foulke’s bid to rebound from an awful 2005 season got off to an encouraging start yesterday when the Red Sox closer threw off a bullpen mound for the first time with power and ease.
Foulke, who followed a dominant 2004 by going 5-5 with 15 saves and a 5.91 ERA last year, threw for just over 10 minutes and appeared to have added velocity. The right-hander had arthroscopic surgery on both knees and anticipated the increased speed due to renewed lower-body strength.
"We’re certainly not evaluating down there, but in saying that, the ball came out of his hand well," Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It was nice to see. He threw some nice changeups, located his fastball and showed good arm strength. It was very encouraging." (Herald)
Make that EXTREMELY positive.
Also, to continue the proud tradition of coming to the irrational, binkyism-driven defense of Foulke, I fail to see how his (repeated) confessions that he's not a fan of baseball impact his performance (although I agree with Gordon Edes that he could, perhaps, cease reminding us at every press conference). If anything, the fact that Foulke "finds baseball boring" helps him be so competitive--if you look at baseball as "just a job", you're probably at least 50% less likely to wet yourself when, say, facing down the winning run with a full count at Yankee Stadium in an elimination game of the ALCS.
It's like Johnny Damon said--"in order to win, you need a closer who doesn't give a shit." And that doesn't just mean doesn't give a shit about last night's or last year's losses, but who doesn't give a shit about the Import of the Game he's in or the Crushing Weight of History on his shoulders.
I'm exactly 180 degrees from Denton when he says Foulke's "I'm not a baseball fan" remarks "are the reason he won't be back to 2004-like form ever again." In fact, in this town, not giving a crap about baseball might be the only way for him to survive after a year like 2005--and it's a more impassioned player with more awareness of his Meaning in the Grand Scheme of Things I'd be worried about.
When it comes down to it, how many of us, no matter what we get paid, truly relish every second of our jobs? And yet, how many of us are good at what we do anyway, and do it because it pays the bills? Just because I love baseball and think what Foulke does is beautiful doesn't mean he has to.
As a matter of fact, I think, as I was discussing with Iain earlier today, that there are probably many more ballplayers who share Foulke's position, but he's the only one dumb and / or brave enough to come out and say so. (And why are we necessarily believing the glib sound bites of those who assure us they're straight out of the cast of Field of Dreams?) Bottom line: what they get paid for are their physical skills, which ultimately are things they can't really help having or not having. It's on us to assign meaning to their actions.
Put another way: Foulke gets paid to throw a ball. That's it. He knows it, he admits it, and sees it for what it is. It's our job to assign his ball-throwing a meaning, if we so choose. It's not his responsibility--or any other player's, for that matter (Why am I starting to feel like a broken record?).
Although I suppose it's always a little bit disappointing when we're reminded that often, our idealism and respect for the game doesn't match those being paid millionis of dollars to play it, I see it as a privelege in a way. It's our imagination, our ideals, that make the game beautiful. It's the one way we participate--but it's a big one. We give what these guys are doing its importance and meaning--or not, as we so choose. Without us, every fastball, every strikeout, every homer, is a tree falling in an empty forest; I say why not relish that, seize it, take advantage of our power? Why leave it in the hands of some dumbass skirt-chaser from Texas who throws a great changeup and fills out a uni pretty well--and will always, always let us down when it comes to telling us what we want to hear?