One of the sad parts of professional sports is when very popular players have to move on. Especially when it’s not just another free agent jumping ship for a preposterous amount of money elsewhere (Albert Pujols, call your office).
Kevin Youkilis, late of the Boston Red Sox and now with those other Sox, is one of our one-name players, like Yogi, or Reggie. Kevin’s sobriquet is Yook, normally exclaimed fortissimo in Fenway Park with at least one exclamation mark behind it. He’s been heavily identified with the Sawks. With good reason.
The Fenway faithful have enjoyed yelling “Yook!” (who wouldn’t?) for nine years now every time Kevin did something good, which was frequently. He’s been a producer, a clutch player, a major part of the Sawks’ success, including championship seasons in 2004 and 2007. But the Sawks have taken the business over the sentimental approach before. They unloaded uber-popular Nomar Garciapara (pronounced No-mah! in Boston and thereabouts) in the middle of the 2004 season when his production had dropped off. And that worked out. The 86-year Curse of the Bambino ended in October of that year.
It will take some getting used to by all hands, not the least by Kevin himself, to seeing Yook in a Chicago uniform. But at age 33 and coming off of injuries, Yook found himself to be a physician without a position.
When not injured this season Yook was only able to put up an underpowered .233 batting average, well under his .286 lifetime mark. His replacement at third, rookie Will Middlebrooks, is 24 and hitting .325. He’s the present and the future there. Yook isn’t going to take Adrian Gonzalez’s place at first. And as even the Sawks don’t have more than a million dollars a month to pay Yook to ride the pine (or whatever Major League dugout benches are made of these days), it was time to go.
Yook’s aggressive, always red-lined, pre-Miranda approach to the game will fit in just fine on the South Side. To win, Yook will do whatever it takes, down to and including biting your ankle. He likely has more good baseball left on his odometer. And fans in Chicago will like him for the same reasons he was appreciated in Boston.
If White Sox players pick up on some of Yook’s intensity by osmosis, that won’t be all bad, either. But let’s hope they don’t try to copy his stance, one of the oddest in baseball. (In an interview on hitting some years back, the late Ted Williams had some complimentary things to say about then Sawks’ right fielder Dewey Evans. But he said Evans’ batting stance made him “want to throw up.” We never heard Teddy Ballgame’s take on Youkilis’s approach. Probably just as well.)
The White Sox are leading the AL Central now and Yook may well help them be in the mix in October. He replaces a guy at third hitting a buck-seventy. If things work out the way they can, Kevin will be humming Sweet Home, Chicago before the frost is on the pumpkin.
Yook got a well-deserved fond farewell Sunday in Fenway when he was lifted for a pinch-runner after hitting one of his patented dirty-shirt triples. In the middle of July, the White Sox come to Fenway, where Yook will surely get a good hand and a full-throated “Yook!” when he comes to bat. At least the first time. The real test of affection in Red Sox Nation will come when Yook robs a Sawks hitter of a base hit, or hits one off or over the Green Monster, but in a White Sox uniform. Then it might just be, “Yook! Ya bum!” Thus it is and ever has been in the Grand Old Game.