Kevin Youkilis gives White Sox stability, doesn’t ensure division title
MINNEAPOLIS — Sunday was filled with tears, memories and a hint of regret.
Monday was filled with the unapologetic musk of Adam Dunn.
“I took it out of his bag,’’ Dunn said matter-of-factly when asked where he got the No. 20 Boston Red Sox jersey that Kevin Youkilis wore in his last game with the team.
So you stole it?
“That’s a little harsh,’’ Dunn said with a look almost resembling that of a small child who has been caught in a lie.
No, harsh was the amount of sweat that Dunn seeped into the jersey, hitting relievers on fly patterns with a football, hours before the game at Target Field. Harsh was that Dunn even squeezed his mammoth build into the jersey. Youkilis isn’t a small man by any means, but leave it to Dunn to make an XL look like a smedium.
“I just wanted to let him know how much I could sweat,’’ Dunn said. “I know Youk’s a sweat hog, so he’ll appreciate the work I did in that thing.’’
Plus, as far as Dunn was concerned, it’s about time for Youkilis to start making some new memories.
That’s really what the trade that sent Youkilis and cash to the South Side for utility man Brent Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart was all about — new memories, new beginnings.
Youkilis and first-year Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine couldn’t coexist. Too much damage done, too good of a rookie waiting to be an every-day player in third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
“I really don’t want to comment on that,’’ Youkilis said when asked about the failed relationship with Valentine. “We’re past that and here, and that stuff, I’ll just leave behind.’’
Then there’s the White Sox, a team still paying for the bad memories it created last season, with a fan base that doesn’t forgive very easily.
The Sox had lost their grip on first place and needed someone stable at third. Who’s more stable than a guy with two World Series rings, even in a down year by his standards? Add in that those rings come with a newly formed chip on his shoulder.
Sox general manager Ken Williams spoke with Youkilis on the phone right after the deal and said of the conversation: “I can’t tell you exactly what he said. He wants to come in, and he wants to prove some people wrong.’’
That’s just the kind of player chairman Jerry Reinsdorf likes to gamble on.
“Yeah, I think coming in angry and with a chip is a great thing to have, especially a guy like him,’’ Dunn said. “In certain situations, it’s probably not the type of thing you want to bring into a chemistry, but in this case, a guy like him with his makeup and mentality, I think it’s a really good thing.’’
The big winner in all of this?
After almost three years of more misses than hits, as well as an ugly feud with former manager Ozzie Guillen, it seemed the luster had worn off of Williams’ once very bright star.
His days of preaching “Chicago tough” seemed hollow for a guy who suddenly became more Hollywood.
Acquiring Youkilis for a reserve in Lillibridge and a never-going-to-happen in Stewart, and only having to pay $2 million for the rest of the season? That’s the riverboat-gambler mentality that helped the Sox in playoff runs in 2005 and ’08.
Welcome back, KW.
“It seems like every time, even in the past when I wasn’t here, any time [the Sox] feel like they can win the division, they’re going to go out and do anything they can to get the players they feel will get them over the top,” Dunn said.
But will it mean anything in this division race?
Williams did his job, fixing a hole on the cheap and doing so in hopes of getting the fan base a little more excited as the halfway point of the season starts to creep up.
But will it be enough to hold off the suddenly awakening Detroit Tigers?
That’s still a no.
The Sox will make September exciting, but better talent is still better talent, and the Tigers have better talent.
As for Youkilis’ old jersey? Dunn left it draped over his new teammate’s chair.
“Just have to frame that one day and put a caption with Dunn on there,’’ Youkilis said of the souvenir.
A caption that reads “2012 Central Division Champions’’ wouldn’t be bad, either.
Just highly unlikely.