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A pinstriped Youk

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  December 12, 2012 09:11 AM

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I may be wrong – and I often am – but I just don’t see Kevin Youkilis’ legacy in Boston taking a hit now that he is…it’s OK to say it…a Yankee.

This isn’t Johnny Damon we’re talking about here. To everybody’s knowledge, the Red Sox didn’t offer Youkilis a contract this offseason. I doubt we’ll have to endure a media blitz of Youkilis shaving his facial hair for the clean-cut Bombers. There’s no way the former Red Sox infielder will feign importance, proudly announcing he knew what it “felt like to be a Yankee” a month short of his first spring training with the club.

Remarkably, Youkilis, who reportedly signed a one-year, $12 million deal with New York Tuesday in order to babysit third base for the injured Alex Rodriguez, becomes the seventh player from the 2004 Red Sox to don pinstripes (Damon, Mike Myers, Mark Bellhorn, Doug Mientkiewicz, Alan Embree and Derek Lowe). None paraded themselves in the faces of Red Sox fans like Damon did in the offseason following the 2005 season. I still find it odd that Red Sox fans are chided by certain facets of the media for greeting him with thunderous jeers upon his return here the following season, blissfully unaware that Damon spat on his Boston heritage long before his former fans turned on him.

Damon’s departure also came at a time when the Red Sox were still World Series contenders. The Youkilis trade last summer came in the midst of a disastrous season led by a bumbling fool who didn’t get along with the popular player. Will Middlebrooks is the future at third, there’s no doubting that, but it’s interesting to note that the Red Sox still don’t have a first baseman, after the Mike Napoli situation seems to have hit a snag. Had things ended better here last season, could there have been a chance Youkilis might have made a return?

Sure, his skills have diminished, and he’s another injury waiting to happen, but he’s also a guy who had an .833 OPS just two seasons ago, 18th-best in the American League. The Sox just tossed contracts for a combined $78 million at Napoli and Shane Victorino, two players coming off a couple of the worst seasons of their careers. It might be easy for the Red Sox to move on, but if the primary reason for not showing a regained interest in the player was that he was an aging risk, maybe they ought to look in the mirror and ask themselves why exactly there hasn’t been a Napoli press conference yet.

And so, Youkilis is now a Yankee. That’s OK with some around these parts. It’s not so OK with some others around these parts.

But this is different. Youkilis was one of the most popular players in Boston over the last decade despite what some would have described as a cantankerous approach at the plate. Wade Boggs jumped ship to the Bronx, and it was almost relief for Red Sox fans to finally have the chance to boo the man. Of course, Boggs signed with the Yankees following the 1992 season, the last time Boston finished in last place before 2012. Youkilis went by way of Chicago after having his manager call him out publically. Remember Sox fans, your team turned on Youkilis before he turned on you.

There has to be a significant portion of Youkilis that is thirsting to stick it to his former team. Heck, remember his 5-12 return here last July with the White Sox, the series the Red Sox shamelessly promoted as his return in a pathetic ticket push? Youkilis now gets a shot at another division title with New York, while the Red Sox flounder this offseason, still not signing the pitcher they desperately need, still, officially, without a first baseman.

It’s not his fault he’s not still here.

The Yankees don’t visit Fenway until July next season, and maybe Rodriguez will be back at that point. Perhaps Red Sox fans will get limited opportunity to greet Youkilis, whether it be with boos or “Yooooouks.”

And maybe, just maybe, he might still be here had the Red Sox approached last season’s managerial search with any semblance of competency.

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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