Friday, February 16, 2007

Forget about Meeting the Foulker

As you may have heard, Keith Foulke announced his retirement before putting on a Tribe uniform. By doing so, he forfeits the $5M he signed for when he passed his physical and hands the closer job to the Big Borowski.

To his credit, he could have reported to Winter Haven and retired, channelled his inner Keith Hernandez and just cashed paychecks. He opted to do the honorable thing and retired before he really put the Tribe over a barrel, like a week before Opening Day.
Those facts still don’t make it any more palatable or offer any more explanation.

Who knows what happened?
Maybe Foulke’s reluctance to sign anywhere or his turning down the Red Sox offer of arbitration lends credence to the thought that Foulke didn’t want to pitch again, that his heart wasn’t in it.

Maybe his elbow just didn’t “feel right”, regardless of what Indians’ doctors saw in the physical.

Maybe he realized that he has earned $32M over the past 10 years, got to Winter Haven, saw a full Spring Training in front of him to work himself back into playing shape and said, “Ahhh…no.”
We’ll never know, but before anyone invokes the name of LeChuck Bentley or Juan Gone, remember that the signing of Foulke was seen as icing on the cake and simply more insurance in the bullpen after most thought the Indians’ bullpen was set after the Big Borowski came on board. With Foulke’s retirement (at age 34, no less), the Indians are back to that point.

Borowski is the closer, but there was a chance that was going to be the case anyway. His retirement turns the 3-man race for 2 bullpen spots (Cabrera, Davis, and Miller) into a near assurance that all 3 will make the bullpen out of Winter Haven. The possibility exists that a Rafael Perez or a Tom Mastny forces his way into the plans; but that means that they earned it, which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

The bigger effect from the Foulke retirement is that the competition for the set-up guy is wide open again.
Will Rocky Betancourt pitch the less than 30 minutes?
Will Roberto Hernandez fight off Father Time for another year and serve as an effective set-up guy?
Will a full Spring Training (with regular work) and no World Baseball Classic mean that the Fernando Cabrera we all thought would be closing games by mid-2006 will arrive in camp?

Who knows, but the Tribe’s Spring Training that started without many questions just got a few more and got a little more interesting.

No comments: