At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Monday, February 20, 2006

Folks for Foulke

It was popular last year for fans and the media (perhaps not in that order) to bash Red Sox reliever Keith Foulke, and from a performance standpoint, perhaps the criticism was justified (5-5, 5.91, 30 runs and 53 hits in 45+ innings). But fair-minded members of the Nation would do well to remember that (a) he went from being hurt to being injured, (b) he was wrestling with (still) undisclosed personal issues, and (c) he is human, no matter how much of a saves machine we may want him to be.

The problem is that sports reporting today is too often shaped by “Survivor”-style mentalities that by extension (i.e., talk radio) put us all under pressure to make snap judgments about current events whether or not we possess the information necessary to make them. Did Barry Bonds/Sammy Sosa/Mark McGuire use steroids? Will Manny Ramirez show up for spring training anywhere near on time (if at all)? None of us really knows, and not only isn’t it wrong for us to presume that we do, such a presumption wouldn’t be tolerated in any other context. (Can you imagine the repercussions of a teacher putting such questions to a student taking a math exam?)

So before we rush to judgment in Keith Foulke’s case, let’s remember that we don’t see him day in and day out, and really aren’t in a position to diagnose the cause of his pitching woes. True supporters will pull for him to be physically healthy and emotionally strong when the bell rings, and won’t personally run him down. Want to boo the third time he blows a save? Fine. Just don’t insult him, or embarrass yourself, by hurling epithets that help no one – least of all Foulke himself.

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