June 24, 2012

Goodbye To The Sultan Of Sweat

A standing ovation before his first at-bat - and a rousing send-off after hitting a triple in the seventh.

Savin Hillbilly, SoSH:
I liked Kevin Youkilis. I liked him for calling out Manny, I liked him for getting annoyed with the umpires (though yeah, he did overdo it at times). I liked the fact that he was a sarcastic, against-the-grain type, because in a baseball clubhouse I would probably be like that too. ... I liked the fact that he succeeded with a bad body and a bad attitude.

Beyond personality, Youk was, in his 2008-2010 prime, an absolute beast at the plate. Over that three-year stretch he topped the AL in OPS, wOBA and wRC+, was 2nd in OBP and SLG, 4th in WAR, 5th in WPA, 6th in BABIP, and tied for 5th in ISO. His peak lasted such a relatively short time that it's easy to forget, in the light of the past two seasons, what an elite hitter he was.

And then there was his defense. He was a solid 3B when healthy, but he was an outstanding 1B. He had a 3B's quick reactions, soft hands, and great instincts - up there with the best I've seen - about how to handle the tricky 1B plays like balls hit between him and the 2B or between him and the pitcher.

Beyond all that, his competitiveness. I would put him up there with Dwight Evans on the list of Sox players in my lifetime who excelled at making the most of average speed. Dewey was a little faster than Youk, but Youk was, I think, just as good at the mental part of baserunning - balancing hustle with good judgment to make the most out of each situation.

The rise of Middlebrooks, combined with Youk's injury-fueled decline, made this deal inevitable. But Youk deserves huge love and gratitude from Sox fans. He has been a great player for us and a key contributor to the best era of Sox baseball since the 1910's.
Sprowl, SoSH:
Youkilis was always one of my favorite Red Sox, for 2007, his batting eye and Greek divinity, his unexpected power development, 2004, It gets better, and his irascibility, roughly in that order.
NJ Fan, SoSH:
My favorite Youks moment of many was the silent treatment that he received from his '04 teammates, upon returning to the dugout when he hit his first career HR. He caught on immediately and did phantom high fives as a smile broke out on his face. He belonged.

I first saw Kevin Youkilis play baseball in the summer of 2001, in his first minor league season. He was with Lowell, playing the Brooklyn Cyclones out near Coney Island. I had no idea who he was, beyond a guy with a bizarre batting stance (and a .512 OBP in the NYPL that year!). Now he is one of the eight men on Earth who can say they won two World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox. This deal was inevitable, yet bittersweet.

Best of luck in Chicago, Yook!


allan said...

The 2004 and 2007 players:
Youkilis, Ortiz, Ramirez, Varitek, Wakefield, Schilling, Mirabelli, and Timlin.

Shoe Leather Zoom said...

I'm gutted about this. With Mike Lowell's retirement at the end of 2010, Youk was my favourite player. I moved to the US form England seven months ago and next week I'm finally getting to see the Sox in the flesh for the first time, as I have tickets for the three games in Oakland. I knew he was probably going to be traded this year, but I assumed it wouldn't be before the All-Star break, maybe at the trade deadline. But no. Gone sooner and before I see the team play. I don't even get to see Youk play for the White Sox either, they have only one series in Oakland this year and it was in April. Bah, bah and thrice bah.

wardo said...

The first time I saw Kevin Youkilis was on a TV in a BBQ place in Chicagoland, May 2004. He hit a home run in his first at-bat, and came into the dugout high-fiving the air before the team finally tackled him. My wife and I still high-five the air whenever his name comes up. Part of me was hoping he'd go to the Yankees just because Yankee fans hate him so much, and then they'd be stuck having to root for him. He's always been fun to watch and we will miss him.

Jere said...

I was supposed to be at Skydome for Youk's MLB debut, but I drove home before the game instead. But I don't regret it. I'd found out on the eve of my 2004 Toronto trip that my good friend had died. I went on the trip anyway but after two games, I got up the next morning, instead of going to game 3, I just had to go home. I heard Youk's first at bat on the drive back to CT. I guess I can say I saw the exact end of the pre-Youk era....

Anyway, I always liked the guy, I hope he find happiness and only correct umpire's calls.