Despite White Sox’ loss, Kevin Youkilis sends a message
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org July 16, 2012 10:30PM
Manager Robin Ventura (23) greets Kevin Youkilis in the first inning after Youkilis scored the White Sox’ lone run. | Jim Rogash~Getty Images
Updated: August 18, 2012 6:36AM
BOSTON — The Fenway Park faithful shouted, “Yooooooooooouk!’’ and if there were one quibble with the display, it would be that chanting during pregame outfield sprints seems excessive.
When Kevin Youkilis actually came to the plate for the first time Monday night, he was met with a wall of “Yooooooooooouks!’’ Part of that has to do with his last name, which lends itself to low, guttural chanting. “Miller’’ or “Johnson’’ doesn’t. Come to think of it, neither does “Valentine.’’
But most of it has to do with the man. Apparently, Red Sox fans miss him, and having seen what he has done for the White Sox the last three weeks, you can see why. As he approached the plate, they gave him a standing ovation, then chanted his name with so much emotion, he took off his cap and did a slow 360 to acknowledge them.
“They’ve been great to me,’’ he said afterward. “I can’t say thank you enough for the support they’ve given me.’’
Here’s why Red Sox fans miss Youkilis so much: In that first at-bat, he singled to center. He went to second on an infield grounder, took third on the play when no one was covering the base and scored after first baseman Adrian Gonzalez’s throw to the unattended bag went into foul territory.
Youkilis hit a double off the Green Monster in the third and received another tribute from the crowd. He doubled again in the sixth, and, well, this guy sure knows how to stick it to a former manager who still doesn’t seem to like him all that much. He went 3-for-4. That’s Youk, as in nuke.
Feel free to forget most of what Youkilis said about his messy ending with the Red Sox, not because his words were forgettable but because they were, to be kind, diplomatic.
To understand what drives the guy, go back to the conversation general manager Ken Williams had with him on June 24, the day the third baseman changed Sox.
That’s when feelings and nerve endings were still raw, when Youkilis was upset with the way manager Bobby Valentine had treated him as the Red Sox made way for Will Middlebrooks at third.
“I can’t tell you exactly what he said, but he wants to come in, and he wants to prove some people wrong,’’ Williams said at the time.
It hasn’t helped that, since then, Valentine has continued to blame Youkilis for any hard feelings there might be between the two.
“I don’t understand why this is still a big rift and things are going on,’’ Youkilis said before Monday’s game, a 5-1 White Sox loss. “I’m just here to play baseball. … There’s no Bobby V vs. Kevin Youkilis or vice versa. It’s about Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox. We’re just playing baseball.’’
This is a guy who lives for competition, who could build a fire out of static electricity, whose long at-bats sometimes seem like acts of sheer spite. And he’s not mad at Valentine anymore? Sure.
In April, Valentine had said that Youkilis wasn’t “as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past.’’ To a competitor like Youkilis, those words must have been especially cutting.
His numbers have been a nice retort. In 42 games with the Red Sox this year, he hit .233 with 14 RBI. In 17 games with the White Sox, he’s hitting .323 with 15 RBI.
In those games, the White Sox are 11-6.
The Red Sox won two World Series in his eight seasons in Boston. That’s why there’s so much love for him here and why the Red Sox had a tribute to him on the center-field scoreboard during the game.
“What I’m doing now is just trying to have fun and win and not worry about anything else other than that,’’ he said. “I think that’s something that’s hopefully going to just keep going through the rest of the season and in the playoffs.’’
Did Youkilis mention that the White Sox are in first place in the American League Central? Only about five times in a 15-minute news conference. He didn’t have to mention that, going into the game, the Red Sox were tied for last in the AL East.
“I just wish it could have ended better, and I wish we could have won the game,’’ he said.
As for the “Youk” chanting, White Sox fans have work to do in terms of decibel level. Just ask Youkilis.
“Boston, I think, would probably be the loudest right now,’’ he said. “Once we get [the Cell] sold out, maybe, because there’s more people who can fit in there.’’
That’s not a shot at White Sox fans for failing to show up in droves for a first-place team. It’s just the truth.
So is the idea of a renewed, relaxed Youkilis.
“There’s no drama or questions all the time,’’ he said of life in Chicago. “But we’re also second fiddle to the Cubs, so it’s always great. It’s easy.’’
You probably want to stop with the second-fiddle stuff, Youk. Three weeks into the relationship, White Sox fans love you. Don’t bring the Cubs into the equation. That has ruined many a romance in Chicago.
Keep your eye on the ball, the one with Valentine’s picture on it.