5 Reasons I Hated Kevin Youkilis & 5 Reasons I Don’t Anymore
Today the Yanks acquired one of my least favorite baseball players ever, Kevin Youkilis, from the Chicago White Sox. I hated Youkilis, but now that he will be donning pinstripes next year (for $12 million), I need to find a way to accept it. Maybe in the spirit of the Christmas season, my heart can grow 3 sizes for Youk. Here is my attempt to reconcile my 8 years of loathing for that bald head with the fact that he is now a part of my beloved team.
5 Reasons I Hated Kevin Youkilis
1. He was a Red Sock
2. He is a dirty player
During his time with the Sox, Youk cultivated a reputation as a dirty player. Collisions at home plate and on the base paths were a normal part of his game. He also had a quick trigger when charging the mound and in ’09 he whipped his batting helmet at the Tigers’ Rick Porcello after being plunked. Now that he’s a Yankee he’s not dirty. He’s just “scrappy.”
3. His batting stance
I can hear his Little League coach now: ‘Youkilis’ stance? Oh, that started as a big joke. We were just trying to mess with him in practice one day, but when he started hitting we just let him keep standing in the box that way.’ He looks like my mom trying to kill a spider with a rolled up magazine, complete with the tip-toe stance.
4. He looks like a Hells’ Angel
If he showed up to a game with a skull tattoo on his forehead, I don’t think I’d notice anything out of place until the 4th inning.
5. He’s a whiner
The man has a permanent scowl on his face. He has also never agreed with a strike call in 4,318 career plate appearances.
5 Reasons I’m (Still Learning to be) Glad He’s on My Side
1. He is the Greek God of Walks
Anyone who read the book or saw the movie, Moneyball, knows that Billy Beane salivated over “Euclis: the Greek God of Walks.” He has gotten a free pass to first on 12.3% of his at bats over his career and is 46th among all active players in career walks (531) despite being 90th in career plate appearances (4,318). He is also tied for 15th among active players in on base % (.384). The man he’s tied with? Alex Rodriguez. He may not have A-Rod’s power, but he’ll get on base the same amount of time. Also, everyone knows A-Rod’s power numbers have declined in recent years, due in part to injuries. In fact, Youk and Rodriguez played the same amount of games in 2012 (122), and Youk hit 1 more home run than A (19) and had just 2 fewer RBIs (60).
2. His defense
Youk’s defense is often maligned. A-Rod’s has not been celebrated very much either since moving to 3rd base, but we are not giving up any defense if Youk becomes our every day man at the hot corner. Both have played 9 years at 3rd and Youk’s career fielding percentage at the bag is 2 points higher than A-Rod’s (.966).
3. He’s scrappy
Youk is one of those players that you hate to play against but you’d love to play with. I can’t wait for the first time Youk slams into Jarrod Saltalamacchia at home plate in Fenway Park. He’s the type of player that with grit and passion can be a catalyst for his team. I think we could use a spark plug like him, someone who isn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty. During last year’s ALCS I was waiting for someone to look at least miffed, irked, perturbed during that anemic sweep. Maybe we need a guy like Youk to destroy a water cooler or charge the mound, if for no other reason than to wake us out of our collective coma every once and a while.
4. The guy can play ball
3 times in the last 4 years Youk made the list of top 50 active players compiled by The Sporting News: 2009 (36), 2010 (38), 2011 (35). In 2008 he finished 3rd in the AL MVP voting and 6th in 2009. The guy gets on base, creates runs, and knows how to do the little things to help a team win.
5. He’s a good guy
Youk’s foundation, Hits for Kids, has done great things for kids across Massachusetts and his home town of Cincinnati. Also, here’s what Robinson Cano had to say about him: “I’ve gotten a chance to talk to him, and he’s a nice guy. I’ve had a chance to meet him at the All-Star game, and he always seemed cool in talking with everybody. There’s some guys that, the way they play the game, you say this guy is not a nice person. But he’s a great person.” Good enough for Robbie, good enough for me.
Bonus: How much Sox fans will hate this
He’s not Babe Ruth, but the psychos to the north loved Youk. Add his name to this list of former Sox that put on the pinstripes: Sparky Lyle, Waite Hoyt, Carl Mays, Red Ruffing, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Johnny Damon, Herb Pennock, Derek Lowe…
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Youk is not just the best viable option for us, but one that I’m excited about. I may be in the minority right now (even my wife is upset I’ve come around so quickly), but I think Youk could be a huge piece of our team this season. He just needs to leave those 2 rings at home.