Everything in life gives way to all powerful force of eventuality. It builds up right from the very beginning and only gives way to inevitability. The day gives way to the night. The seasons change.
And in baseball, veterans give way to rookies.
Sometimes it is tough to admit when a veteran needs to step aside, and often it takes an act on behalf of management that seems almost cold and unfeeling. But often times, those decisions need to be made by someone in order to do what is in the best interest of the club and the players involved, including the veteran in question.
Such was the case on Sunday when the Boston Red Sox chose to trade third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox for utility-man Brent Lillibridge and pitching prospect Zach Stewart.
The writing had been on the wall for weeks, as top prospect Will Middlebrooks had made it all but perfectly clear that he was the future at third base for the Red Sox. The slick fielding rookie is batting .326 with 9 home runs, 10 doubles, and 34 RBI in just 41 games with the Red Sox, after hitting .333 with 9 home runs and 27 RBI in 24 games at Triple-A to start the season. He has been the shot of energy that the Red Sox badly needed after an abysmal start to the season and has provided a stabilizing bat on the right side for a left-heavy line-up.
Of course, trading a player like Youkilis comes with its own difficulties. Youk was a fan favorite and a member of two World Series championship teams in 2004 and 2007. His gritty, working-man’s type of play helped build him from a player known for his ability to garner a base-on-balls to a legitimate threat in the Red Sox line-up. Chants of “Yoooouuuukkk” filled Fenway Park on a nightly basis and more often than not, they were rewarded with a key contribution from the three-time All-Star.
However, sentimentality is not a smart way to run a business and Boston had to draw the line somewhere. Youk was struggling when he was in the line-up, something that of its own right had been a difficulty in recent seasons, and the Red Sox were forced to juggle their line-up by moving lead-footed Adrian Gonzalez, a gold-glove first baseman, to right field just to accommodate all the bats in the line-up. Gonzalez’s play was suffering for it, Middlebrooks was losing important at bats, Youkilis was growing unhappy with a reduced role, and that says nothing of the increased issues of playing in National League parks and having to add David Ortiz into the rotation.
So eventuality gave way to inevitability.
The Red Sox made the tough decision of trading Youkilis for the best package they could get in return. But the trade was more about peace of mind than it was about pieces in return. Youkilis needed a fresh start, Middlebrooks needed the playing time, and everyone needed to move on. Boston is not a fun place to play when the media speculation is running rampant and it was increasingly apparent that the team and Youkilis wanted the speculation put behind them.
As a fan of the Red Sox, I can see the reasoning behind the move, and I can even voice my personal agreement with making it. Still, I cannot help but realize that another of the good guys got abruptly shown the door as well. The Red Sox handled the situation poorly; with Valentine dancing around with Youkilis through the media when things began to truly sour. Then the team chose to send out an email to fans to try and sell ticket to Youkilis’s return to Boston when the White Sox visit Fenway in a few weeks’ time, showing just where the line between sentimentality and business truly lies with a classless ownership group.
This is just another in a string of moves where the Henry/Lucchino/Werner group strung along a situation in order to build its production quality and in turn try and turn a profit from it. Youkilis deserved better than this. Wakefield and Varitek deserved better than to be strung along throughout Spring Training.
Strung out until eventuality eventually won out.