Goodbye to You(uuukilis): A rational fan's perspectiveI know where I was the day former Sox standout Youkilis was traded
For the better part of two weeks, I have had a Google window open on my computer at work and have been hitting refresh a few times a day, anticipating the inevitable trade of Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox.
A month ago a friend and I bought tickets for the Sunday afternoon, June 24 game at Fenway Park against the Atlanta Braves.
Not once in the past two weeks did I even entertain the notion that perhaps Youkilis, admittedly one of my favorite Sox players over the past few years, would be traded on that date.
Now, I'll always remember June 24 as the day the Red Sox traded away one of its greatest home grown talents. And I will always be able to say I was there when it happened.
My friend and I were sitting in the Coke Deck to the upper left, viewing from home plate, of the Green Monster in foul ground for much of the day as the game reached into the seventh inning, when we made the decision that we would start seat-jumping in an effort to get a little closer to the field.
"You don't care that we could possibly be kicked out [of the game] at this point, right," he asked?
"That’s a clown question, bro," I replied, doing my best Bryce Harper impression.
And off we went.
Consequences be damned as we wove from section to section looking for better seats. We settled on some seats in the upper deck to the right of the press box, for a few moments, when Youkilis dug into the batter's box for what would prove the final time.
Youkilis grooved a pitch to deep right-center field that the normally sure-handed Braves center fielder Michael Bourn misplayed and the ball fell to the grass. Youkilis, who has made a career on grit and hard work over athleticism and raw talent, slid into third base with a triple to the delight of the Fenway faithful.
We quickly began to exit our seats and hustled down a set of stairs as we looked to make a move to the next pair of seats we didn't pay for, when suddenly, I heard the volume of the crowd, ever so slightly, begin to grow.
"Wait," I said, as I turned and bolted back up the stairs, my friend running up behind me.
We stood at the top of the stairs and watched as Nick Punto emerged from the Red Sox dugout as a pinch runner for Youkilis, who began to make his way back to the dugout.
"This is it," I thought.
Awaiting Youkilis at the dugout was the entire Red Sox team, led by Dustin Pedroia, who hugged Youkilis in one of the more emotional moments the storied ballpark has seen in recent memory.
A standing ovation for nearly a minute ensued as David Ortiz, who along with Youkilis is one of the two remaining members of the 2004 World Series championship team, stood at the top of the dugout steps, demanding a curtain call.
Youkilis came out and saluted the crowd one final time, and then disappeared, never again to be seen in a Red Sox uniform.
The Boston fans, who are as smart as they often are irrational, knew deep down they were seeing Youkilis in a Sox uniform for the final time.
As it turns out, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had gotten the call to take Youkilis out of the game as he had been dealt, but Valentine allowed the three-time all-star, whom he has had a contentious relationship with since the start of the season, one last moment in the sun.
After the game, word officially spread that Youkilis had been traded to the Chicago White Sox for utility infielder Brett Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart.
For many of the reasons talking heads and talk radio show hosts have debated ad nauseum for the better part of a month, Youkilis had to go. With the emergence of third baseman Will Middlebrooks along with the spots of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and designated hitter David Ortiz essentially set in stone, the once versatile Youkilis was suddenly a man without a position in Beantown.
Rumored to be sometimes volatile with the media and also with teammates, Youkilis is a proud player and feels he should start. A lesser player with those credentials would have sulked, demanded a trade and otherwise been a hindrance to the team. However, Youkilis mentored Middlebrooks and adapted to his new role the best he could in the short term, knowing full well a trade was inevitable.
Youkilis, much like Trot Nixon before him, epitomized that "dirt dog" mentality that used to be everything that Boston stood for. His uniform always was dirty and his mind was always focused. All he cared about was winning.
And now, he will look to win some place else, trading in his red socks for a black pair.
A player of Youkilis' talents, signed to such a recent lucrative contract, was not meant to rot away on a bench in a reserve role. And with a $13 million team option for next season the Red Sox would not be exercising, along with the fact they currently are in fourth place in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, it was now or never in terms of getting a return on the slugger for the betterment of the future of the franchise.
While the trade makes sense business-wise, emotionally, it makes the decision no easier for those of us who rooted for him, those of us who cheered for him and for those of us who yelled "Yoouukkk" whenever he stepped into the batter's box.
Youkilis, along with Ortiz, represents a certain era in Red Sox baseball. An era that, like it or not, is coming to an end.
And even though the rational fans knew it was time for Youkilis to go, it does not negate what he did for us and what an important part of this team he was for many years.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.