When I was a kid I knew the starting lineup of every team in the American League. Now there are a few reasons why that was the case; the widely held one at the time was that I was simply out of my mind about baseball. True!
There was also the fact that I had my “imaginary” league to consider. You see I played wallball, early 60s version, in which I was every player as well as the park announcer AND the radio play by-play guy. I was quite a busy little fellow and I had to know my stuff!
Brooks Robinson and Luis Aparicio were among my first non Red Sox favorite players. Aparicio was the Orioles leadoff hitter from 1963 through ’67’ and Brooks Robinson was penciled in at third base for the better part of two decades.
However, the primary reason I was able to remember all those lineups was because they simply didn’t change all that much. The lineup was the lineup, bench players were exactly that, bench players and the goal of each to team was to find their lineup and run with it.
The Hot Stove League was all about trades and only trades and the off-season would be spent waiting and hoping for that block buster deal to be made. And there were some doozies.
In the early season of 1960, the year noted author Kerry Keene calls “The Last Pure Season”, the Cleveland Indians traded the 1959 home run champ Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for the 1959 batting champ Harvey Kuenn.
Rocky Colavitio (L) and Harvey Kuenn.
Then there was the winter of 1965 when the Orioles fleeced the Cincinnati Reds acquiring all time great Frank Robinson for pitcher Milt Pappas and change.
And in March of 1969 the Cardinals traded 1967 MVP Orlando Cepada for four-time all-star and a future MVP (1971) catcher/first baseman, Joe Torre.
Yesterday the Red Sox bid adieu to Kevin Youkilis.
“Youk and “Pedey” embrace as Youkilis leaves the Fenway Park field for the last time as a member of the Red Sox.
It’s been a long time coming and it was necessitated by the performance of rookie Will Middlebrooks.
Middlebrooks is hitting .326 with nine homers and 34 RBI.
It was a pure business decision and after all this heah baseball thing is, above all , a business, a very big business and here’s the bottom line.
“Youk” is in the last year of a contract that is paying him $12,000,000 dollars. There is a club option of 13 million for 2013 or the club can choose to buy him out for a paltry million bucks. The Red Sox are said to be picking up about $5,000,000 of Youks ’12’ salary. Will Middlebrooks is a rookie, thus he is paid the league minimum of $480,000.
Now part B of the bottom line goes like this, “Youk” turned 33 in March. Middlebrooks? He’ll be 24 in September.
Part C of the bottom line is the bottom line. The past two seasons, injuries have cut into Youk’s time on the field and his production. After averaging 146 games a season in 2006, ’07’ and ’08’; he fell off to 136 games in 2009, 102 games in 2010 and 120 games last year. And in 2011 his production fell off significantly.
Kevin Youkilis is a lunch pail guy. A blue-collar kid from Cincinnati, he plays the game hard and it is my sense you love him as a teammate and you hate him otherwise, a good way to be from my perspective. He is emotional, and that’s because he cares and he wants to win.
Yesterday MLB Network pundit, Joe McGrane took a shot at Youk for his propensity to complain about every called strike he ever experienced.
To be honest, that used to bug me too, however Youk outgrew that three years ago. Yet on the other hand McGrane’s compadres were talking as if Kevin Youkilis is going to provide the White Sox with much-needed pop out of the third base position. That remains to be seen but the reality is that in 2008 and ’09’, Youk hit .309 and averaged 28 homers and 105 RBI, the last two years have seen him dip to .282 with an average of 18 homers and 71 RBI; a significant drop off.
And Youk’s former teammate and current MLB yapper Kevin Millar is on record as saying the Sox are making a mistake because Middlebrooks has only had a good “couple of months”. Whether Middlebrooks is the real deal or not also remains to be seen but none of that changes the reality that he has earned the right to play. He has displaced Youkilis as the Red Sox third baseman simply because he has out played him, out produced him.
Kevin Youklis is gone bound for Chicago and a change of Sox. Yesterday, in a touching moment at the place Youk has called home for eight years, the Fenway Faithful let him know how they felt about him. And the Cincinnati Kid responded in kind.
Youk is gone, leaving David Ortiz as the last vestige of the miracle that was 2004. He was a winner and he was clutch. He hit .306 with six homers and 17 RBI in seven post season series and was at his best in his two ALCS’s, .414, 5 homers and 13 RBI.
It is yet to be determined which Youk the White Sox will get. Often a veteran player is rejuvenated after a trade and that is the hope of White Sox GM Ken Williams and his organization.
It is yet to be determined which Youk the White Sox will get, but I picked him up this morning for my fantasy team.
Arrivederci to The Greek God of Walks, and thanks, you left your impression on Fenway Park and this patron is appreciative!
And so it is on this day in Fenway Park history, June 25, 2012.