|K. YOUKILIS God-given talent|
The names roll off the tongue of any sixth-grader studying for a mythology quiz: Zeus . . . Apollo . . . Poseidon . . . Youkilis . Youkilis?
OK, so maybe the Greek God of Walks, as Kevin Youkilis is known in some literary tales, isn't an official Greek god. But if Youkilis produces the way he did this season, there will be no denying his mythical status in Boston.
Youkilis's legend grew in the minors, where his keen eye and knowledge of the strike zone led to some impressive stats and streaks. In 2003, Youkilis reached base in 92 of 94 games for the Double A Portland Sea Dogs. He finished the season with a .487 on-base percentage and reached base safely via hit, walk, or hit by pitch in 71 straight games.
Those gaudy numbers were the reason Youkilis was referred to as "Euclis, the Greek God of Walks" in Michael Lewis's book, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game." Lewis reported that Oakland general manager Billy Beane became enamored with Youkilis's stats and tried to swing a deal for the corner infielder.
But it soon became evident that Youkilis could do more than draw walks - the kid could hit.
After spending 2004 and 2005 shuttling between Pawtucket and Boston, it appeared Youkilis was the heir apparent to third baseman Bill Mueller for 2006. That was until the Red Sox pulled the trigger on the trade with the Florida Marlins that brought ace Josh Beckett and Gold Glove third baseman Mike Lowell to town in November 2005. For Youkilis, it was time to switch corners, permanently.
The transformation has been nothing short of astonishing. After posting a .995 fielding percentage in 127 games at first in 2006, Youkilis put up a 1.000 fielding percentage in 135 games this season. He has handled a team-record 1,586 straight regular-season chances at first base without an error.
Youkilis, however, will always be known as a hitter first.
He started the '07 season on a torrid pace, batting .328 over the first 77 games. He recorded a 23-game hitting streak from May 5 through June 1. He cooled off in the second half, batting just .238 over the final 68 games.
Fortunately for Red Sox fans, he regained his golden stroke just in time for the playoffs. He finished the postseason hitting .388, including .500 (14 of 28) with three home runs and seven RBIs against the Indians in the American League Championship Series.
Despite his sterling performance on offense and defense, Youkilis was still bumped to the bench in favor of David Ortiz when the World Series shifted to Colorado. To nobody's surprise, Youkilis took it like a pro.
"Look at our DH," said Youkilis. "He's probably our best hitter."
While that may be true, it's Youkilis who just might add a Gold Glove to his World Series ring.