If Red Sox manager Terry Francona hadn't let the truth be known, Keith Foulke would have us believe he's back in Boston today for the seafood.
The Keith Foulke saga of 2005, the one threatening to turn the World Series champs into also-rans, reached an even weirder level yesterday when Francona ordered the cantankerous closer back to Boston to have MRIs performed on both his knees, confirming that what Foulke told ESPN's Rick Sutcliffe was true: he is injured.
And yet another example of the true face of Keith Foulke.
Last week, Foulke, after blowing a save against the Indians, insisted he cared more about what his teammates thought of him than "Johnny from Burger King," a statement directly insulting many of the fans who had backed him after last season's playoff heroics.
As it turns out, he really doesn't give a damn about his teammates, either. How long until he loses them, too? Or has he already?
If Foulke really did care what his teammates thought of him, maybe he wouldn't have pitched injured the first three months this season. It was three weeks ago that Newark Star-Ledger columnist Dan Graziano wrote: "Closer Keith Foulke isn't slumping -- he's hurt. Two baseball officials close to the Red Sox said Foulke is pitching with pain in both knees, that the team wanted him to get arthroscopic surgery to clean it up last winter, and that he refused. If Foulke, who was a gutsy playoff hero for Boston against the Yankees in 2004 and should have been MVP of the World Series, can't recover, the Red Sox are going to be scrambling to try to find a closer at the trade deadline."
Around the same time, Foulke supposedly told Sutcliffe over a couple of brews that his knee had been bothering him, an admission that made the condescending closer furious when the ESPN color analyst went on the air with what Foulke had told him.
Then, of course, there was Foulke's trip to the Alabama Sports Medicine Institute, a visit that Foulke continues to deny, insisting he went down south for barbeque. Barbeque. I mean, it's becoming quite obvious what Foulke thinks of the fans and the media, but how stupid does he think everybody is?
Now, finally, Francona has put at least a temporary end to trotting the combustible closer out in save situations by playing Mommy and making him have an MRI, a decision that never would have been made had the choice been left up to Foulke. In the meantime, between his offseason decision not to have his knees checked out and his current situation -- quite possibly headed to the disabled list with four blown saves, five losses, and a 6.23 ERA -- Foulke has put his teammates in a precarious position.
Had an offseason scope picked up a problem, maybe Foulke could be coming OFF the disabled list right now along with Curt Schilling. Maybe that would have provoked general manager Theo Epstein to find another arm for the bullpen prior to the season instead of in early July, when everybody except the Rockies and Devil Rays are looking for the same thing. Maybe one of the Mariners' arms might not have cost the likes of Hanley Ramirez or Dustin Pedroia, as they could now in a competitive market for their services.
If Foulke had admitted his knees hurt to Francona and Epstein even a month ago, maybe he'd already be a month closer to returning from the disabled list. Maybe Mike Timlin would have had that many more opportunities to succeed where Foulke has flopped.
If Foulke cared so much about what his teammates thought of him, he would not have kept his increasingly obvious problem to himself. Because he apparently did, he cost his team games that could have the Red Sox firmly in the driver's seat in the AL East rather than just with their hands on the wheel. If I'm Bill Mueller, or Tim Wakefield, or David Ortiz, or Jason Varitek, today I'm wondering why it took an edict from the manager to have his physical condition checked out.
For now, Timlin is likely to get the call in save situations, but it's very possible the Sox could make a deal, however difficult that might be with so many teams still in the hunt. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer points out that Mariners pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa has been pitching less with the trading deadline approaching. He also has as a vesting $3.1 million option that automatically kicks in if he sees action in 58 games. Presently, he's on pace to only pitch in 52. The Intelligencer also confirms Boston's likely interest in closer Eddie Guardado, a target of many teams, including the Nationals. But as Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal points out, the lefty closer is a risk (and an expensive one at that) with a frayed labrum.
The one obvious weakness on the 2005 Sox is their bullpen, which in many ways can be considered Epstein's kryptonite. Two years ago, it was the buckle-up bullpen by committee, a glare the GM attempted to fix with the additions of Scott Williamson and Scott Sauerbeck, who ineffectively became the not-so-Great Scotts. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Williamson became the third member of the dominant trio of Timlin, Williamson, and Alan Embree. But it was too late at that point. Even with his relievers' dominant playoff run, manager Grady Little had lost faith in a bullpen that had been misconstrued from the start.
That all changed last year with the addition of Foulke, the big-bucks offseason acquisition who cemented the bullpen. But also becoming more obvious is the underappreciated efforts of Curtis Leskanic, who had a 1.29 ERA after returning from the disabled list in mid-August. A midseason addition last season, Leskanic is the kind of valuable pitcher this team has failed to find in guys like Jeremi Gonzalez and Matt Mantei.
And now, we're back to the beginning of Epstein's reign, with the bullpen needing an overhaul. And yes, when David Wells says, "Hey, I'll close," it is indeed in need of an overhaul.
A healthy Foulke could have quite possibly limited the damage. In his state he only made things worse.