Lost Legacies: Keith Foulke Should Have Been 2004 World Series MVP

The 2004 Boston Red Sox were the ones that ended 86 years of baseball angst in New England and participation on that team continues to define the legacy of its key players. Ask current Dodger manager Dave Roberts, who is the continued recipient of gratitude from us citizens of Red Sox Nation simply for a pinch-run stolen base. But one player’s legacy should shine brighter than it does and it’s closer Keith Foulke. He deserved to be the 2004 World Series MVP.

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The award went to leftfielder Manny Ramirez. It wasn’t a bad choice. Manny went 7-for-17, drew three walks, hit a home run and threw a runner out at the plate in a big spot early in Game 3, when St. Louis had their best chance of turning the eventual sweep into a real Series. As championship-event MVPs go, Manny’s award isn’t in the same class of robbery as Darrell Porter winning the 1982 World Series MVP or Ty Law being denied the MVP of Super Bowl 36.

Even allowing all that, I was still surprised in the moment when Foulke didn’t win the honor and fourteen years of history hasn’t made it look any better.

Foulke appeared in all four games of the World Series, pitched five total innings and allowed just one run—and that was a meaningless solo home run in the ninth inning of Game 3 when he had a 4-0 lead and it was more important to simply challenge hitters rather than walk them. He closed out Game 4, which was still in striking distance as Boston held a 3-zip lead. But his most important work came in Game 1.

Boston was on the verge of blowing a game that had led as much as 7-2 early on. Foulke came on in the eighth trying to preserve a 9-7 lead with two runners on base. He allowed a single to Edgar Renteria, but otherwise would have gotten out of the inning…if not for a misplayed fly ball in left by none other than Manny Ramirez. The error allowed the tying run to score.

And it easily could have been worse. The bases were still loaded with one out and the meat of a potent St. Louis lineup at the plate. What happens if Boston blows this game at home and the momentum they were riding off the unprecedented rally to beat the Yankees in the ALCS gets stalled with a bad loss at home? We’ll never know because of the work of Keith Charles Foulke.

Foulke got Scott Rolen to pop up, then struck out Jim Edmonds. In the bottom of the eighth, Red Sox second baseman clanged a home run off the Pesky Pole in right. Foulke closed the ninth without incident. Ballgame. Postseason winning streak still alive.

Keith Foulke went on to pitch brilliantly in the remaining three games of the 2004 World Series. It capped a postseason where he threw 14 innings in all and the only run allowed was that aforementioned meaningless HR in a game that was decided.

New England is a great baseball market with a long memory, both good and bad. For those reasons, Keith Foulke’s performance in 2004 won’t be forgotten. But it would look even better had he gotten what he deserved, which is the World Series MVP trophy.