Monday, June 25, 2012

Kevin Youkilis Traded to White Sox

"Everything ends badly, otherwise it wouldn't end."

A classic quote from the 1986 classic movie Cocktail can be applied to Kevin Youkilis as his time in Boston came to an end the last few weeks culminating in yesterday's trade to the White Sox. 

Due to the physical decline of Youkilis and with the emergence of Will Middlebrooks, it became clear that it was time for a change at third base for the Red Sox.  The fans knew he was leaving, Youk knew he was gone, and there was an uneasy feeling around the team as they awaited his fate. 

During yesterday's 9-4 win over the Braves at Fenway Park, Youk was removed from the game after he tripled in the seventh inning.  He left to a standing ovation from the Fenway crowd - despite his struggles the fans remembered the many good times Youk had in Boston - and came back out for curtain call.  A video tribute was played.  It was the ending to another chapter in Red Sox history.

There is no doubt that it was time for Youkilis to move on.  He has not been aging well, the Red Sox have a home grown prospect in Middlebrooks ready to take over, and it was clear that Youk was unhappy with the direction of the franchise, especially the hiring of Bobby Valentine as manager.  The White Sox are gambling that a change of scenery will revive Youk's production at the plate.  The Red Sox are hoping that moving Youkilis will clear up some of their problems in the clubhouse.

Youk's departure does lead one to look back on his career with the Red Sox.  An eighth round pick in the 2001 draft, most Red Sox fans first became acquainted with the name Kevin Youkilis when Billy Beane referred to him as the "Greek God of Walks" in Moneyball.  He earned that nickname by walking 326 times in 408 minor league games before becoming a full time major leaguer in 2005.  Youk was a bit player on the 2004 World Series team and the 2005 Wild Card team but when he became a regular in 2006, he asserted himself as a star.

From 2006 - 2009, Youk evolved from everyday major leaguer into a legitimate MVP candidate.  His home run (13, 16, 29, 27) and RBI (72, 83, 115, 94) numbers were excellent and his triple slash (average, on-base, and sluggling) went from .279/.381/.429 in 2006 to .288/.390/.453 in '07, .312/.390/.569 in '08, and .305/.413/.548 in 2009.  After 2009 the injuries started to set in and he has not been the same force at the plate since then.

In 2008 (third place) and 2009 (sixth place) he was a candidate for A.L. MVP, he was a three-time All-Star, and won a Gold Glove at his adopted position of first base in 2007.  Yes, Youk was a valuable defender and he bounced from third to first to accomodate Mike Lowell and then returned to third last year when the Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez.

Most importantly, Kevin Youkilis was a part of two teams that won the World Series in Boston.  He will leave a legacy of playing as hard as he could every time he took the field in a Boston uniform.  It was a move that had to be made but that doesn't mean it's easy to say goodbye.


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