I've got this recurring vision of Harrison Ford, clad in leather jacket and scaling the Green Monster ladder with one hand, the other on his fedora to keep it from blowing away in a stiff left-to-right Back Bay breeze, all the while gritting his teeth and grunting.
"It belongs in a museum."
Just when you thought the World Series ball episode couldn't get any more ridiculous, Doug Mientkiewicz comes to town with the Kansas City Royals and promises to open old wounds, channeling Bill Clinton. Seriously. And if you think the issue could become any more stupid, Keith Foulke opens his mouth and … well, nothing more needed there really.
The ball that Foulke flipped to Mientkiewicz for the final out of the 2004 World Series now sits in the Baseball Hall of Fame, following a nasty legal battle between the Royals first baseman and his former employer, leading to this hysterical Onion piece from earlier this year. That appeared to be the ending of one of the more bizarre tales of greed and gimme this side of nursery school. But Mientkiewicz, who'll make his first visit to Fenway since 2004 tonight with the Royals, has been spouting off on the subject the past few days in anticipation, and promises fireworks before tonight's series opener.
For tonight, Mientkiewicz said he has a ``speech planned out . . . the person who wrote [Bill ] Clinton's acceptance speech in the White House helped me write it." He told the Globe's Gordon Edes that a ``Red Sox CEO would get blasted [for what] he put me through."
Gee, let's narrow down the options as to whom that might be.
Meanwhile, in between his attempts to try to pry his shoes away from the Hall, Foulke tries to assert that he's the rightful owner of the ball and outlines how he was refused the ball from Mientkiewicz when he asked for it.
"If you were to take it to a panel or a court of unbiased people and you went down a list of team and players and people that deserve certain things, [like] the ball, I think maybe Mr. Mientkiewicz may be down the totem pole a bit, but that's just me," Foulke said. "Of course I think I deserve the ball...I think I did some pretty good things to deserve that thing. But maybe I'm wrong."
Let's step back for a moment, shall we? Mientkiewicz claimed on a Detroit radio station over the weekend that he was receiving death threats from Red Sox fans while he was in possession of the ball (which, unfortunately, based on some of the capricious daily missives in my Inbox, is entirely believable). So, maybe the guy has a right to be a bit disgruntled over the way Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox made a public case in pursuit of the rawhide. But then again, what do the Red Sox do nowadays that they don't make into some lavish show? Remember the ball's arrival at Fenway via a Brinks truck and red carpet? Easily one of the more embarrassing moments to grace Yawkey Way in recent years.
But to hire Clinton's speechwriter for his grand statement this evening? It's all just surreal. The whole thing is like Rocky. Nobody asked for more, but it keeps on coming.
Never mind the fact that Foulke is the one who probably should have the speechwriter. Foulke remains on the disabled list, and even with the terrible duo of Rudy Seanez and Julian Tavarez exiting the bullpen door, not many Sox fans are really clamoring for his return.
I'm not sure if Mientkiewicz was really expecting the same sort of greeting, positive or negative, that was reserved for the likes of Pedro Martinez or Johnny Damon. He'd probably have gotten a respectable ovation for catching the final out and playing a nice first base down the stretch as a spare part.
The ball rests in the Hall now. With Foulke's shoes. That's all well and good. Or at least, it should be.
For his part, Mientkiewicz seems a little more inclined to let the issue slide, his problem more directly with the Red Sox' ruthless pursuit of the ball only after the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy wrote a piece detailing where it had ended up … some three months later. It wasn't exactly as if John Henry and Co. had hired Magnum PI (nauseating news by the way) immediately after the parade to try and retrieve it. It wasn't even a thought really, just an item lost in the shuffle of a grand celebration. In retrospect, looking back at how relentless the Top of the World Red Sox were over the ball during that offseason, it's sort of difficult to blame him for being bitter.
"The fans never did turn on me, which is really nice," he told the Kansas City Star. "It was a special four months while I was there. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends -- David (Ortiz) and Manny (Ramirez) and all of the guys over there."
As for Foulke, well where do we begin? The man who should be celebrated in Boston as a World Series hero continues to embarrass himself on and off the mound. Whether it's talking only if he receives a truck, lying about why he went to Alabama (BBQ, not Dr. James Andrews’ facility, of course), or insulting the fans with his "Johnny from BK" dig, it hasn't been the brightest pair of seasons for the former closer. He appears to be in no rush to get back, and the Red Sox' only rush with him seems to be anticipating how quickly they'll be out from under his contract.
And now, we have to endure his whining about what's rightfully his.
Foulke argues that Josh Beckett and Mike Timlin have the balls from the 2003 and 1992 World Series, respectively, so why shouldn't he? Maybe he should, but that's beyond anyone's control at this point. Paul Konerko, you might remember, was good enough to give the ball he caught for the final out in last year's Fall Classic to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a classy move that Foulke and Mientkiewicz should have taken note of and realized how silly they were being over this whole process. The Red Sox, too. It's a ball. And as historical as it might be, nobody deserves to receive death threats over something as benign as deciding whom it belongs to. If that is indeed true, then frankly I'm a little more on Mientkiewicz's side than I thought I once would be. No matter where he is on the totem pole.
Now, Mr. Mientkiewicz, you have the floor. Can't wait to hear this one.