Francona, on the progress of Youkilisís career:
Youk hit a ball in the gap against the Reds, a night game in his first spring training, and he pulled a high breaking ball. And that night Theo and I and Millsy [bench coach Brad Mills] were talking, saying it would be a good time to send him down because he hadnít pulled a lot of balls with authority and he was a young prospect and we wanted him to go out on a good note. Then in í04 heís up and down and heís up and down, up and down a couple too many times. But every time we brought him back, I never heard him complain. He just kind of tried to learn and it was really impressive because it was obvious we werenít afraid to use him when he was here. He was just on that shuttle that some guys get on. And every time he went back, he learned and progressed. And now heís one of the better players in the league. Itís exciting, especially when you get guys that care so much about winning, and then you put the numbers to boot, and the will to be a good player and a good teammate. It does get very exciting.
Epstein, on his comfort level in signing homegrown players like Pedroia and Youkilis to long-term deals:
I think thatís a significant part of it. These guys are both proven, as Tito said. Not only that theyíve proven that theyíre two of the best players in the league, but they can do it in this atmosphere. I think they thrive playing their games in this pressure cooker at Fenway Park and they want nothing more than to win a World Series at the end of the year. Anytime you talk about giving players long-term contracts when you donít have to, you have to consider the risk involved. Thereís always injury risk and thereís not much you can do about that. But obviously Kevin takes great care of himself. And then thereís sometimes a motivation risk, and that doesnít exist with Kevin. Heís not someone whoís motivated by money. Heís out there playing the game for himself. Heís playing the game to win the game. Heís playing for the organization. Heís playing for his teammates. He wants to win a World Series, and so it never even crossed our mind that ĎHey, we maybe we shouldnít remove the carrot for this guy because we might see a different player.í He is who he is, by the day he signed with this organization and his last day as a big leaguer, he just wants to play hard and win. From that perspective itís a low-risk investment, and well-deserved as well.
Youkilis, on the possibility of leaving money on the table by signing a long-term deal:
I think thatís a skeptical thing to say, leaving money on the table. It can go either way. You could get injured and you could go into arbitration next year and not make your money. Thereís a lot of things that happen. Could I have made a little more money? Maybe. But I think the biggest thing when you look at it is, for me personally, like Theo said, itís not about money. Itís about going out and playing baseball. Iím getting paid a lot of money to play baseball. This is more than Iíve ever imagined making in my career, let alone in anything other than trying to play the lottery on the Megaball. Havenít really hit that one yet. Itís easy. When we talked about the contracts and my agents, Joe and Brett Bick, they did a great job. Iím happy with what I have. I donít need the extra $2 million that you can get a year. I was happy with the numbers we came to and Iím excited that I get to play baseball. This gives me the opportunity, the guarantee to play for another next four years. You never know where your careerís going to take you, so Iím excited about that.
Youkilis, on his patience paying off:
Itís definitely a great feeling. I think my wife and a lot of people are like, ĎYou donít seem so happy.í I am really happy about it. It probably hasnít hit me yet. Like I said, like Theo said, I donít see the money factor. I donít see the dollar signs. I just see playing baseball and getting prepared for the season. It is a great thing for all of the patience -- 2005 was a rough year for me, going up and down. It was very tough. But my agent Joe Bick was always telling me, ĎHang in there.í Theo was telling Joe, ĎHang in there.í To be honest with you, if it wasnít for 2005 and having the right attitude and having guys like Dave McCarty to explain to me that he probably got rushed to the big leagues a little too soon, and that if you can go out and learn from a lot of the guys here -- youíve got Manny [Ramirez], David [Ortiz], Bill Mueller and all these other great hitters who were here --I just tried to take a little bit of everything from them and go down to Triple A and play. And when my time came, I had to make the best of the opportunity, and I think thatís what I did each year. But my whole goal was to improve each year and play hard and do the little things.
Epstein, on Youkilisís versatility:
Kevinís versatility is very valuable to us. Heís a very well-rounded player. Heís never been accused of having blinding speed, but he runs the bases well given his speed. And the strides heís made defensively, both at first and at third, are incredible. Thatís what weíre looking for in a player weíre going to give this kind of money to is well-roundedness and versatility. It does a lot for me in the offseason in putting the team together and for Tito during the season and writing out the lineup card in knowing he can pencil Kevin in at first or third.
Francona, on Youkilis and Pedroia becoming team leaders:
By just asking the question, youíre acknowledging that two of our younger guys are stepping up on the field and in the clubhouse. Their presence is recognized, and that doesnít always happen with younger guys. Sometimes theyíre struggling to survive. These guys have thrived in this situation and theyíre front-and-center, theyíll ask a question when they donít play well and theyíll be available. Theyíre accountable, not just to the media, but to their teammates, to me and the coaches. Thatís part of the reason theyíre who they are. They will have a huge responsibility to our ballclub going forward, as they should, and that makes us more comfortable.
Epstein, on the same topic:
Kevin and Dustin have both been held out by us internally as models, as model Red Sox, as what you want a Red Sox player to be. For instance, in our rookie development programs weíve probably mentioned Kevin and Dustin dozens and dozens of times this last week. How to play the game, how to be a good teammate, different ways to get to the big leagues. Weíve cited Kevinís patience and perseverance and his development path to the big leagues. And now with these contracts, itís fair for us to hold them up as models externally as well. I think it means more as an organization when you put your money where your mouth is, when you have guys who play the game well, who play it the right way and come through the system to reward them if it makes sense. And now weíre proud that we can hold these guys up both inside the organization and to the outside world as models.
Youkilis, on his leadership role with the team:
We always have meetings before in spring training. Tito and Theo sit down with every player. The past two years theyíve always told me, ĎYouíre putting yourself in a situation where youíre going to have to be a leader and youíre going to have to do stuff on the field.í And to me it never bothered me one bit. Iíve always felt that Iíve never had enough time play with guys who are veterans along the way. But now its starting, you get a little more time, you start understanding that thereís young guys who need your help along the way and you have to be a good leader to those guys and help them along the way because itís not easy road or path. Itís tough for some guys coming in for their first full season. I remember my first full season how tough it was physically and mentally. Itís an honor to be one of the leaders of the Red Sox. And I think thatís the greatest thing, that we have a bunch of guys that come together and will lead this team in times of need. And thatís how we get out of funks. We have a lot of guys who are willing to step up and do whatever they can to win ballgames.