From the moment manager Bobby Valentine insulted Kevin Youkilis with vague remarks about how hard he was trying to come back from injury, or whatever Valentine really meant, you knew that the Boston experience was not going to end well for the veteran infielder. And it didn’t. However, there is every chance that Youkilis can still write a happy ending to his career with the Chicago White Sox.
Over the weekend Youkilis was traded to a team that can use him and use him right now. No more worries about playing time. No more concerns about having an off day and being subbed for by a rising young player fresh from Pawtucket. The White Sox, who have overall been playing better than expected this season, need Youkilis’ assistance pronto, so the opportunity will be there for him at third base.
Nothing ever stays the same in professional sports and no teams stay the same very long, either. Roster composition is kind of like the ice at the North Pole, always shifting. Youkilis was a very popular player in Boston, for good reason. His game was distinguished by how hard he played and his easy ability to switch back and forth between first base and third base. He was a member of the Red Sox’ 2004 and 2007 World Series teams, an important member, and no one in New England is going to forget that.
In all or parts of nine years with the Red Sox, Youkilis had 133 home runs, 564 RBIs, and a .287 average. He was a three-time All-Star and the type of player fans look at and categorize as a winner. You kind of wonder if Terry Francona was still manager if Youkilis would still be in Boston. The Red Sox decided they didn’t need Youkilis anymore because he was injured, got off to a slow start in 2012, have some up-and-coming players and because he is 33.
If Youkilis rounds into form–something he is showing signs of doing–the White Sox will get the better of this deal. They only gave up back-up infielder Brent Lillibridge, who was hitting .175, and relief pitcher Zach Stewart, whose earned run average of 6.00 is one of the worst in the American League. Clearly, the White Sox figured this was a gamble well worth taking.
Youkilis had barely gotten back into the Red Sox lineup after coming off the disabled list, but the early signs that he is sharp were pretty good. He collected two hits in his final Sox game and was 6-for-14 over his last four games for Boston. Boston fans gave Youkilis a standing ovation.
Although he has excelled at first and third, the White Sox’s hole is at third and Paul Konerko, the Sox leader and one of his new teammates, welcomed Youkilis loudly. “There is no way we’re not a better team with Kevin Youkilis,” Konerko said.
The White Sox are in first place in the American League Central Division and they are playing to win now. The acquisition of Youkilis definitely gives them a better chance. And simply changing the color of his socks, from red to white, gives Youkilis a better chance to show his stuff at this stage of his career.