Monday, June 25, 2012
Kevin Youkilis's Time In Boston Mercifully Comes To An End Before It Gets Any Worse
Our long national nightmare is finally over: third baseman Kevin Youkilis has been traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox for utilityman Brent Lillibridge (he's played every position but catcher) and pitcher Zach Stewart. Personally, I'm psyched that I don't have to waste one more second of my life reading the endless rumors on Twitter about where Youk would end up. The Red Sox have to pay $5.5 million of what he's owed for the rest of the season, the White Sox are only on the hook for $2 million.
Today was his last game in Boston as he reached on an infield single in the second inning then hit an RBI triple in the seventh that scored Adrian Gonzalez. There were two particularly poignant moments involving Youk: he got a standing ovation before his first at bat then Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had Nick Punto pinch run for him in the seventh ensuring that he'd get one more proper send-off from the crowd and plenty of bro hugs from his teammates before departing for Chicago.
It's not very often that a professional athlete gets a last moment like that (not that he's retiring yet) but you have to admit it was pretty awesome. It was a great run for Youk in Boston after he was an eighth-round draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati in 2001. He progressed through the minor leagues and made it to the big leagues in 2004. He was a member of two World Series champions (2004, 2007), a three-time All-Star (2008, 2009, 2011) and a Gold Glover in 2007.
The reason that this move was inevitable was because at 33-years-old, his body has really broken down. He has never played more than 147 games in a season and he hasn't played more than 136 since 2008. Due to a variety of injuries, he appeared in 102 games in 2010 and 120 in 2011. More importantly, he's already been replaced by rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks who is just starting out on what looks like it could be a very promising career. Youk is going to be a free agent this winter so it made the most sense to get some value in return for him since there was no way the Red Sox would sign his $13 million team option for 2013.
Listen, we all loved Kevin Youkilis at some point in time since he played the game the right way, hustled and was very versatile (playing first base and third base which was almost unheard of at that type of defensive level). However, in recent years his constant injuries and surly attitude made it harder to appreciate him. Once he started complaining about playing time this season, that more than sealed his fate. They had no choice but to get him out of here.
He ended his Red Sox career with impressive numbers: 594 runs, 959 hits, 239 doubles, 16 triples, 133 home runs, 563 RBIs and splits of .286 batting average/.388 OBP/.487 SLG. His two best seasons were 2008 (29 homers, 115 RBIs, 43 doubles; .312 batting average, .390 OBP, .569 SLG) and 2009 (27 homers, 94 RBIs, 36 doubles; .305 batting average, .413 OBP, .548 SLG) when he was an AL All-Star and finished third and sixth respectively for the AL MVP.
We'll always remember how much he sweats (more than any person in the world not named Shaq), his goofy batting stance and unathletic way he did things but above all, we have to be happy that we got to see almost the full spectrum of his career: rookie, veteran, All-Star to a guy nearing the end in MLB.
Red Sox fans actually won't have to wait long to see him return as the White Sox come to Fenway from July 16-18, the first home series after the 2012 All-Star Game. Expect all the frauds and pink hats to appear in full force for those games.
Don't expect much of anything for Lillibridge (a career .215 hitter that has never played in more than 97 games in a season) or Stewart who is 3-8 in his career with an ERA of 5.92 in 31 games (12 starts). Granted, he's only 25 and a former third-round pick of the Reds so I suppose he has some hope left. Lillibridge will join the Red Sox while Stewart jumps into the rotation at Pawtucket.
David Ortiz is now the only player left in Boston from the 2004 and 2007 World Series winners. I'm not saying that the Red Sox should have traded Youk last winter since who knew Middlebrooks would burst onto the scene like this but I'm totally in favor of a move to shake up the chemistry and get rid of some high-maintenance, underperforming and overpaid players. I only wish that Josh Beckett was long gone as well and then they could really get a whole new vibe for a team that has won nine of 11 and is playing its best baseball of the season.