Keith Foulke has suddenly decided to retire today, after feeling pain in his elbow recently. This move leaves the Indians without a closer, since that's exactly what Cleveland signed Foulke to do. The 34-year old Foulke was apparently just in no mood to deal with more injuries, which in the last two seasons had derailed what had been a very good career.
Foulke was drafted by the Giants in 1994 (actually, originally drafted by the Tigers in '93, but did not sign), and came to the show in 1997. He pitched 11 games (including his only eight major league starts) for San Francisco before being sent to the White Sox in the famous "White Flag Trade" on July 31. Foulke saved three games down the stretch for Chicago, and had a superb season in middle relief in 1999. In 2000, he became the team's closer, helping them to the AL Central Division championship with 34 saves and a 2.97 ERA.
Foulke closed for the White Sox again in 2001 (2.33, 42 SV), but lost his job in a panic move by Jerry Manuel in 2002. Foulke was seen as a disappointment that season, but in reality wound up overcoming his early struggles to have another very good season, posting a 2.90 ERA.
After the 2002 season, Foulke was involved in another infamous White Sox-to-Bay Area deal, sent to Oakland with other players for egomaniacal flamethrower Billy Koch. Koch absolutely imploded with the White Sox and was out of baseball following the 2004 season. Foulke, meanwhile, had a fantastic season, recording 43 saves with a 2.08 ERA.
As a free agent, he signed with the Red Sox, and despite falling apart after that first season, he made an eternal mark on Red Sox Nation. He had a great regular season again (32 SV, 2.17), and was the pitcher on the mound and the assist on the final out of Boston's first World Series win in 86 years.
As the years pass, that's the Keith Foulke that Red Sox fans will hopefully remember, instead of the guy they booed because he wasn't all that interested in telling them that they're just the best gosh darn fans in the whole world, as a large portion of Red Sox fans seem to sleep better at night hoping that the players think of them, and say, "I don't always like them, but goddamn it I respect them. What wonderful diehards, and they really tell it like it is. They are straight shooters, no question about it."
This offseason, Foulke signed with Cleveland, hoping to again be one of the game's top closers and hoping to shore up a bullpen that ruined the Indians' season in 2006, but now he's retired, having never thrown a pitch for his new team. He was an unconventional closer who thrived with a humiliating changeup that completely neutralized left-handed hitters.
Foulke ends his career with 190 saves and a 3.30 ERA. My favorite thing about Foulke? He entered games to Danzig's "Mother."