At a time when politicians are name-calling and shame-calling, while Reality TV is so unreal it’s absurd and ridiculous behavior on YouTube reigns supreme while we’re keeping up with the Kardashi- whos? It is completely refreshing to see a man face his former employer only three weeks after being fired and display a level of grace and composure absent in most Americans today. Who would have imagined that the shaved-headed, goatee-bearded, pumped up and scowling-faced Kevin Youkilis would be gracious and graceful, kind and caring enough on camera while wearing a White Sox uniform in the house of Red Sox manager, Bobby Valentine? (While watching on TV, you could tell Youkilis was in Boston by the Dunkin Donuts logos on the wall behind him.)
Who knew? No one, but that’s what happened when Youkilis faced the press in Boston on Monday afternoon the 16th before the White Sox lost to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. He was positively eloquent, forgiving and thoughtful.
“There were no regrets” Youk said.” I had a lot of fun,” Youkilis was so humble pie, they could have named a band after him. “I came in my rookie year and won a World Series and won another one playing every day in 2007. Some guys can’t even say they’ve won one, and I was very fortunate to win two and go to All-Star games and all the cool stuff, plus I met my wife here, so there’s no regrets. I’ve never looked back and said, ‘I should have done this or that.’’
In spite of Youkilis being traded by the Red Sox to the White Sox on June 24th under the cloud of suspicion that Bobby Valentine had some grudge against him (didn’t like him, if truth be told), Youkilis still has no ill (kill us) will about the split. He talks about preparing for the move when the trade rumors started earlier in May and June. He talks about preparing his family for the move. And still the fans in the stands chanted YOUK YOUK which always sounds like BOO BOO to many a visiting clueless spectator. Only true Boston fans and diehard baseball fans understand what Youkilis stands for, that the chants of YOUK are a love song to a favorite son. YOUK is like a groan from a Boston-bound mating whale. It’s nearly pathetic in its sound, but bemoans more than just one syllable. Now, the Chicago White Sox fans understand the same sound and the true meaning of YOUK.
He may be gone to Red Sox nation, but Youkilis lives on in the Midwest along with ghosts of other Red Sox heroes lost to the White Sox – lost in baseball’s Central division summer dust. Carlton Fisk and Normar Garciaparra both left Boston suddenly (in similar pay-or-trade situations) with one red sock half off and another white sock half on. And both finished their careers in classic major league fashion. (Just ask them which team they want to “go into the Hall”.) All Red Sox fans, most baseball fans and certain Cincinnati Reds fans remember Fisk’s home run in game six of the 1975 World Series. Milestones aside, it is clear that all three, Youkilis, Fisk and Garciaparra, were abandoned by the Red Sox at a certain point in their careers, signifying weakness in the manager and the front office full of indecisive decision-makers. Three truly great players left by the roadside of the Midwest for younger players who were never quite so great. (Just check the records of who followed Fisk and Garciaparra in their positions.) Do you remember a better catcher than Fisk or a better shortstop than Garciaparra? Barely. Somehow, Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox front office managed to spin it that Youkilis had to go to make room for rookie third baseman Middlebrooks, and besides that there were too many outfielders. Too many outfielders? It seems that the Red Sox played 14 different outfielders leading up to the All Star break this season, a road just not taken in professional baseball. Yes, there were extraordinary circumstances with injuries to outfielders like Ellsbury and Crawford, but 14 different outfielders? The experts supposed that Valentine made the decisions he did when Youkilis was injured at third base to keep the bats of Youkilis, Ortiz and rookie Middlebrooks in the game. By moving Youkilis to first base and asking Adrian Gonzalez to move to right field, the Red Sox could keep all the bats in the game. However, there were other demons at work. Gonzalez doesn’t like right field or so that’s what Valentine told us. Apparently right field is not as easy or as visible as first base and Gonzalez’s contract doesn’t call for him to be a team player, so right field ceased to be an option. As mere mortals, we will never know what went on with the Red Sox front office and skipper Bobby Valentine before the Youkilis trade was the determined solution. The sad fact is that many a ballplayer’s career winds down in this same way. The money players like Gonzalez and Carl Crawford call the shots about when they play and when they don’t play, while day-players like Youkilis go by the boards and drift into the uncertainty of when they will play again and where they will play again… and pass on into infamy. And so it goes in the MoneyBall game of today’s baseball. Watch out Bobby Valentine, the Rays are coming.
Kevin Youkilis now plays third or first base for the Chicago White Sox. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Youkilis admits that Chicago is not a bad place for him to end up. After all, he’s an infielder.