I was prepared to make my return by detailing my Hall of Fame ballot vote (if I was entitled to one). However, I felt it more prudent to discuss a topic closer to my personal leanings; the Boston Red Sox.
I know, I know, big shocker huh? I can already hear the “East Coast Bias” engine starting up. But hear me out for a minute here; this is not a post pumping sunshine about the Red Sox or even one in which I am choosing to rant about the short-comings of the team this offseason. No, this post is going to dial in to one player in particular.
I want to discuss Kevin Youkilis and the misconception that he betrayed some sort of false loyalty to the team and its fans by signing with the New York Yankees.
Let’s start with the common sense side of things. Kevin Youkilis is a man that poured his soul into the game night in and night out in front of the fans at Fenway Park. He earned his spot in the majors, likely getting more out of his abilities than he rightfully should have and creating a spot for himself in one of baseball’s toughest towns.
Baseball is a business and Youkilis started to decline, so the Red Sox made the right choice by handing the reigns over to the heir apparent, Will Middlebrooks. However, the Red Sox handled it poorly, letting Bobby Valentine justify the move by creating a rift with Youkilis was challenging his commitment to the game and his fire. That rift grew to the point where Red Sox management chose to side with Valentine and shipped Youkilis to Chicago for a Coke and a smile.
That all said, Kevin Youkilis owed the Boston Red Sox nothing. Even so, I am sure that he would have re-signed with the team had they courted him to play first base. Boston did not, so Youkilis was left with the option to find work with those calling for it.
Those options boiled down to the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees. The Indians offered two things, the ability to play for Terry Francona again, and a two-year deal worth $18 million. All and all, that wasn’t a bad deal for a bad-bodied third baseman in decline.
Then the Yankees came a-calling. They suddenly needed someone to replace Alex Rodriguez for at least the first half of the season, but also to likely play defense while A-Rod worked his way back into the line-up as a designated hitter. After getting turned down by Jeff Keppinger and Eric Chavez, the Yankees needed Youkilis, so they did was New York always does, they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Youkilis ended up accepting a one-year deal with the Yankees worth $12 million. He gets the chance to revitalize his career in perhaps the most hitter friendly park in the league and gets to play for a contender.
But for Boston to villianize him for making this decision is wrong. Youkilis did not spurn the Red Sox to sign with New York. Youkilis did not choose the Yankees out of some sort of vindictive vendetta that would allow him to enact his revenge against the Red Sox 18-times next season. The fact that he considered these offers for over a week says enough about how much thought went into the decision at hand.
Kevin Youkilis did not owe anything to the Red Sox and he certainly was not making a statement with this signing. To think anything else of him in the wake of this signing is short-sighted and quite frankly, ingnorant to the subject of free agency in general.
He did what any other free agent player would do; he took the best deal on the table and didn’t look back.