I know I’m in the minority here…

January 3rd, 2007 → 12:09 am @ // 13 Comments

…but I’m gonna miss Keith Foulke, who looks to be taking his hockey-loving self to Ohio. (Someone should warn the ladies of Cleveland just what they’re in for.) The history of the 2004 World Series will be replete with tales of Christ-like Curt and Papi “David” Ortiz, but Burger-King Keith was as much of a hero as anyone, and should have gotten some kind of postseason award for his trouble. For whatever weird reason, two of my enduring images of those playoffs are: 1. Foulke on the mound in the bottom of the ninth in Yankee Stadium, blowing snot out of his nose (trust me, it was kind of amazing), and 2. Foulke with his arms out in the air after the final out of the Series in the ultimate “Can You Believe It? pose.”

Anyway, here’s my description of Keith at the end of that Yankees game as described in Feeding the Monster:

In the ninth, Keith Foulke was called upon for the third straight game. Out of everyone in Boston’s bullpen, Foulke was likely the most spent. He’d thrown 50 pitches two nights earlier in Boston’s Game 4 victory, and followed that up with 22 more pitches in Game 5. Before that, the most pitches Foulke had thrown in a game that year was 41, and the most he’d thrown in any three-day stretch was 62. When he came to the mound in Game 6, he’d thrown 72 pitches in the previous 48 hours.

Foulke’s best pitch is his changeup. Changeups are thrown with the same pitching motion as a fastball, but come in with less velocity; because the hitter can’t tell what’s coming, the reduced speed leaves him off-balance. In order for a changeup to be effective, a pitcher needs to have a decent enough fastball to keep the hitter honest. Foulke’s fastball had never been overpowering, but at 92 miles-per-hour was respectable enough to adequately set up his change.

On the 19th, it was clear from the first batter that Foulke wouldn’t be throwing in the low nineties. His fastball was topping out at 88 or 89 miles-per-hour, which didn’t provide enough deception to make his 82 or 83 mile-per-hour change its normal, knee-buckling self. What’s more, home plate umpire Joe West had a tight strike zone: anything the slightest bit off the plate was going to be called a ball. Hideki Matsui, the first man up in the inning, walked, bringing the tying run to the plate. After striking out Bernie Williams and getting Jorge Posada to pop up, Ruben Sierra came to bat. Like Matsui, Sierra—who’d been 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Schilling—battled his way on base via a seven-pitch walk. He was followed by former Red Sox first baseman Tony Clark, and as Clark prepared to hit, the angry and frustrated fans in Yankee Stadium came to life. This was how it was supposed to work in New York. A walk-off home run by one of the Yankees role players would make up for the anguish of the last several days.

“That at bat, for me, was the most nerve-wracking moment of the series,” says Epstein. “Foulke has nothing, he’s getting squeezed, and a Clark home run ends it all.” At home, at least the Red Sox would get a chance to bat last—in Yankee Stadium, there would be no more chances. As Clark settled into the batter’s box, the Boston outfielders moved back about ten feet. They’d gladly sacrifice a single in order to save a game-tying double from getting over their heads.

When Foulke pitches, he looks a bit like a cobra striking: he has a compact delivery and jerks the ball out of his glove before exploding toward to the plate. He wound up and threw in to Clark. Ball one. Seconds later, he tried it again. Ball two. In the Red Sox’s dugout, Terry Francona bowed his head and began rocking back and forth. Foulke’s third pitch was eminently hittable, but Clark held off, bringing the count to 2-1, and a fourth pitch foul evened it up. The fifth pitch of the at bat was in the dirt. With a full count, the Yankee runners would be off with the pitch, meaning they’d be even more likely to score on a single. Foulke took a deep breath, walked around the mound, and started his windup. He threw an 88-mile-per-hour fastball, which Clark swung through to end the game. As Foulke ran off the field, his voice hoarse, he pounded Bronson Arroyo on the back. “Gotta make it interesting,” he shouted before heading to the showers.

In the twenty-five previous best-of-seven series in Major League Baseball in which one team had gone up three games to none, not a single series had been forced to a seventh game. “We just did something that has never been done,” Schilling said afterwards. “It’s not over yet by any stretch.” The Red Sox had already made history. Now the pressure would really be on New York.

Yeah…good times. Happy trails, Keith. I really will miss you.


Post Categories: 2004 Playoffs & Keith Foulke

13 Comments → “I know I’m in the minority here…”


  1. Mude

    10 years ago

    Without Keith Foulke, there is no 2004 World Series title for the Red Sox. Not even close. I’m not from Boston, so I just don’t get the idiots who ragged on Foulke in ’05 & ’06. Hopefully my home state will treat him better.

    Best of luck to 2004’s unofficial postseason MVP.

    Reply

  2. TimmyMac

    10 years ago

    FINALLY someone gives Keith Fouke his due. Thank you for saying what needed to be said. He got shafted by the fans and the media, when he helped get us a world series with a changeup and guts.

    Reply

  3. laphroig23

    10 years ago

    Foulke’s performance in that 2004 offseason was phenomenal. I think his story is a perfect example of how hard it can be to play in this town. He was _hurt_ in ’05, let slip an unfortunate comment about the fans, and he was never going to be able to recover unless he pitched like Mo Rivera.

    He was always interesting to watch pitch, provided you kept the Pepcid handy. Great entertainment. How many times did we hear “No team with a soft-throwing closer has ever won it all?” I wish him well.

    Reply

  4. miles44

    10 years ago

    We don’t even get to the World Series in 2004 without Keith Foulke, never mind win it. And he should’ve been the WS MVP, not Manny. Foulke had a strong 2nd half of 2006, and I expect him to have a solid year for the Indians.

    Reply

  5. Ogie Oglethorpe

    10 years ago

    Foulke has been unjustly criticized in this town. The workload that he had in the ’04 post season may have ruined the remainder of his career. After the ’04 Series the Boston media put 3 things on it’s to do list.

    1. Expose the “Wonderboy” – an extensive smear campaign against Epstein.
    2. Drive Manny out of town.
    3. Smear Foulke’s legacy.

    Granted none of these guys are perfect but for what they have done for this team and city they deserve a lot more respect.

    Reply

  6. HFXBOB

    10 years ago

    What Foulke did in the 2004 postseason was beyond amazing. 11 games, 14 innings, 1 meaningless run, all with the game or the season itself on the line. The most incredible thing was the 100 pitches he threw in games 4, 5 and 6 of the ALCS. Without going through the history books, I’m guessing it was easily the greatest postseason performance ever by a reliever. And I’m sure all those pitches had a lot to do with the physical problems he had the last 2 years. Although he did make a few stupid remarks which turned (too many) people against him, I’m sure when the ’04 team has its reunion at Fenway he will receive the appreciation that his supremely clutch contribution deserves. And yeah, I’ll miss him too.

    Reply

  7. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    Anybody who thinks they’ll miss Keith Foulke now that he’s gone should have already been missing him these last two seasons, because the Foulke of ’04 has been gone all that time. 15 saves over two seasons and ERAs of 5.91 and 4.35. Not good. Yeah, he was hurt, but I don’t think we should assume that his physical problems stemmed from his valor in ’04. Anyone who harps on Manny for faking an injury should pay more attention to Foulke, who has admitted to not caring much about baseball. And he’s been a major ass the whole time, from the stupid stint on WEEI to the infamous Burger King comment to the blasé attitude about the game itself. He struck me as one of the most unlikable characters on the team of the last three years, and I’m glad he and his arm are gone. Thanks for the ’04 series, but I won’t miss you one bit. Missing Keith Foulke is like missing Mark Bellhorn. There was a time when they earned our adulation, but that times is over.

    Reply

  8. HFXBOB

    10 years ago

    There was lot of reliable evidence last year that people both in management and the clubhouse felt Manny had quit on the team and wasn’t hurt enough to be sitting. I could be wrong but I don’t remember anything like that about Foulke’s injuries. Just the fact that he had a blase attitude means little. He probably had the same attitude in 2004 when he was doing well.

    Sure, Foulke may have been an ass, big deal. Bob Stanley is probably a great guy, but he can’t even set foot in Fenway without being booed to death. All people care about is that, unlike Foulke, he couldn’t get the job done when it mattered most.

    Reply

  9. MarshallDog

    10 years ago

    Foulke was unfairly treated by most of the media since he was signed by the Red Sox. Even when he was shutting down opposing teams in 2004, no one gave him credit for being a dominant closer. All anyone wanted to talk about was how he could barely touch 90 on the radar gun, and that kind of stuff didn’t “scare” opposing hitters. I remember Denis and Callahan talking one morning after Foulke blew his first save, asking themselves, “Really, how was he even doing it in the first place?”

    I think that turns out to be the biggest reason I respect him so much. Instead of relying on lights-out stuff and the hitters “fear” he uses precise location and deception; the hitter’s overconfidence plays right into Foulke’s plan when a juicy fastball turned out to be a looping changeup. I have missed that for the last two years, and if he returns to form for Cleveland next year, I’ll miss it even more.

    I think appreciation for Foulke is not lost in Red Sox Nation. I was at a Lowell Spinners game last year (actually, a Mike Lowell Spinners game!) when Foulke was on rehab. Every time he appeared from the dugout, he got a big ovation. Every strike he threw drew a huge cheer from the crowd. When he left the field, he got standing ovation. It was refreshing to see some people who don’t have a “What have you done for me lately?” additude.

    By the way, guys like Mark Bellhorn will always earn my adulation. Here’s a minimum-salary guy that was an afterthought in spring training and became the every-day second baseman. Apparently being a major part of a World Series team isn’t enough to earn respect unless your name is Orlando Cabrera.

    Reply

  10. tinisoli

    10 years ago

    I hear what you’re saying. I miss Mark Bellhorn’s timely homers and the dominant Foulke of yore, but to me the feeling is distinctly nostalgic. There’s a difference between missing who those players are now and being sentimental about who they were back in ’04. Mark Bellhorn will always earn your adulation? If he had been at Fenway last year, batting .190 and striking out every third trip to the plate as he did with the Padres, I can’t imagine much adulation would have been in the air.

    Reply

  11. Jack

    10 years ago

    I for one am really looking forward to his replacement… one Joel Piniero… NOT.

    Reply

  12. V06

    10 years ago

    “I know I’m in the minority here…”

    Well, nine out of the ten posters above agree with you,
    Seth. As do I.

    Keith Foulke may be a first class a**hole, a jerk to his family; and likes to, as a hobby, step on fluffy kittens. I really don’t know. And I don’t care (ummm…well… maybe I would about the kitten thing).

    It may be an understatement to say that Keith Foulke was not the most cuddly of the 2004 World Champ Red Sox (although the chick in the pict who has Foulke’s tounge in her ear may disagree); but he, along w/ Schilling and Ortiz, were most responsible for giving Boston its first World Series title in 86 years. I kind of cared about that.

    For this alone he was worth every penny the Red Sox gave him and for this alone he will always receive my respect. I hope his first appearance back at Fenway is greeted by Sox fans with a standing ovation… the man earned this recognition if only for his balls-out efforts over 14 innings in October 2004.

    Reply

  13. Nordberg

    10 years ago

    Count me in, too.
    He should have been WS MVP in 2004.
    Foulkie deserved a better fate than what he got in 05 and 06.
    He can throw Whoppers in my face all he wants. I’d still shake his hand and say ‘thanks’ for what he did in 2004.
    Good luck, Foulkie.

    Reply

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