By In Stuff

Youk Can’t Be Serious

A friend of mine is a Yankees fan, and he told me on Wednesday morning that he’s finished. Done. Through. Of course, he does have a habit of periodically going off the deep end about something the Yankees did or did not do and then proclaiming himself ready to break off all relations with pinstripes. The break-up usually lasts about 47 minutes. This time, I will admit, he sounds a bit more serious.
“Youkilis,” he grunted. “I hate Kevin Youkilis.”

I do not hate Kevin Youkilis, but I know exactly what he means. Some years ago, the team I grew up loving — the Cleveland Indians — signed pitcher Jack McDowell. Oh, I thoroughly Clemenated Jack McDowell with the fury of a thousand suns. I’m not sure why I did. There was just something about him, his hideous “Black Jack” nickname, his travesty of a Cy Young Award, his music thing, his giving the finger to the fans, his ever-changing facial hair … oh, it wasn’t  logical. It didn’t have to be logical. It was a sports thing. He pitched for the White Sox, and he beat the Indians a few times, and I just could not stand him.

Then, the Indians signed him as a free agent.

And the feeling was, really, kind of awful. You put up with so much as a fan. High prices … traffic … complacent owners … oddball philosophies … prospects who flame out … favorites who get traded or leave town …  heartbreaking losses … as Michael Schur and others have said, you would never put up with this kind of pain in an ACTUAL relationship. But you put up with it in sports because, well, because you do. You squeeze the moments of joy for all they are worth, and you endure the much deeper and more lasting agony, and it’s just what being a sports fan is all about.

But getting Black Jack McDowell was a different challenge from anything the Indians had done to me before. Here they were telling me that they had several meetings, and gone through numerous negotiations, and they had determined once and for all that I could no longer loathe Jack McDowell. That’s it. They just took that away. And, I don’t know, it just seemed like that was crossing a line. Yes, through the years, they made me invest way too much hope in Rick Waits and Tony Bernazard and Ernie Camacho. Yes, through the years, they made me believe that 1987 was the year, and that Von Hayes was the future, and that Wayne Garland was the pennant clincher. Yes, they put me through all sorts of horrors.

But telling me one day, clear out of the blue, that I had now LIKE Jack McDowell, that was too much.

This week, the Yankees signed the much-despised former Red Sox star Kevin Youkilis. This is hardly unprecedented for the Yankees. Heck, the Yankees were practically BUILT by a much-despised former Red Sox star. And through recent years, they acquired the much-despised former Red Sox star Wade Boggs, the much-despised former Red Sox star Johnny Damon and the much-despised former Red Sox star Roger Clemens. But it is true that if you look just a little more closely, you could argue that this is a different situation.

Boggs: When the Yankees signed him, they were kind of irrelevant. They’d had four straight losing seasons and had not been to the postseason in more than a decade. Basically, the Yankees had been in the business of signing EVERY 35-year-old former star, so this just fit right in with their corporate strategy. After acquiring Don Baylor, Gary Ward, Mike Easler, Ken Phelps, Jose Cruz, Bert Campenaris and others, it would have been a shock if the Yankees HAD NOT gotten Wade Boggs. Anyway, the Red Sox were not all that relevant then, either, having just lost 89 games. The Yankees-Red Sox thing was a rivalry, sure, but it was kind of dormant.

Clemens: I would argue that when the Yankees signed Clemens, he was no longer viewed as a Red Sox pitcher. Boston had dumped him in basically the same way the saber-toothed tiger dumps Fred Flintstone in the closing credits, and he had pitched in Toronto for two years. I think enough time had gone by that he wasn’t really a hated Red Sox guy anymore. Plus Clemens was still a dominant force, which makes a lot of bad feelings go away (I might have felt differently about Jack McDowell in Cleveland if he had not posted a 5.10 ERA over one and a half seasons).

Damon: Now, this was a more direct hit. Damon came right to the Yankees from Boston … this little more than a year after Damon hit the Game 7 grand slam that punctuated the Red Sox ALCS miracle comeback. No doubt Yankees fans despised him and felt some hard feelings about the Yankees acquiring him. But I think this, too, was different and here’s why: In a direct sense the Yankees were not only signing Damon, they were also TAKING DAMON AWAY from the Red Sox. In the end, Damon had almost as many plate appearances as a Yankee (2,525) as he did for Boston (2,782) with a higher OPS+.

But this Youkilis thing — none of that applies. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is as hot as it has ever been, maybe hotter than ever. Youkilis was probably the most hated player on the Red Sox, which is saying something. He is also 33 years old and coming off a pretty dreadful year — the guy hit .235 and only posted a league-average on-base percentage because he was hit by pitch a league-leading 17 times (Youkilis: The Greek God of Plunk). And it’s not even like the Yankees get the joy of taking him away from Boston … the Red Sox gave up on Youkilis in the middle of last season and dumped him on the White Sox.

In other words: There is nothing good about this acquisition from a Yankee fan’s perspective. The Yankees are essentially demanding that fans root for a guy they’ve so thoroughly enjoyed clemenating for so many years AND a guy who probably won’t be the hitter he was in his prime. Talk about your lose-lose.

You know how players have no-trade clauses in their contracts where they pick 10 cities and you are not allowed to trade them to any other place? Well, I think cities should have a “No Way” clause for certain players — if the team tries to acquire that player, the fans can just say “No Way,” and the deal is off. I have little doubt that Yankees fans would have used their No Way clause to avoid getting Kevin Youkilis.

Of course, now that the Yankees did get Kevin Youkilis, he will probably hit .386 with 37 homers. That seems to happen to Yankees signings a lot. My friend says he doesn’t care how well Youkilis plays, he will never be able to root for him. Yeah, well, that might be December talking. I have a feeling a change of heart won’t take more than two big hits.

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67 Responses to Youk Can’t Be Serious

  1. Unknown says:

    Oh, please. Joe, tell your friend to leave. Go become a Mets fan. Better yet, a Red Sox fan. Or a Twins fan, or something. Whatever makes him feel better. Many Yankee fans will feel better if the type of fan he represents heads off to the hills.

  2. Joe says:

    I was very fired up when they traded for Clemens. My exact words were that I’d rather lose with Wells than win with Clemens. I eventually got over it, but I felt exactly like you did with McDowell.

    I hate Youk too. I’ve heard personal stories (2nd hand) that make me think he’s a jerk in real life so I don’t like him even beyond the Red Sox thing.

    I would never give up being a fan over it. But it really does sting a little when your team adds a guy you don’t like.

    I’d add that Boggs and Damon didn’t bother me at all, because I liked them as players even though I hate the Red Sox. And Damon is a Royal anyway.

    It’s the combination of rival and genuine hate for the guy that turns the stomach. Youk and Clemens both fit the bill.

  3. njwv says:

    Yeah. I went through a bit of this when the Giants signed Orel Hershiser. Some players just get under your skin when they play for your rivals and you never get over that gut reaction.

  4. I hated it when the Royals acquired Kirk Gibson, and even more when the Astros acquired Vinny Castilla and later Brett Myers. I never came around on any of those guys. I remember feeling my skin crawl when an an ESPN promo (this was back when ESPN showed a baseball game most nights and spread around which teams they showed) said, “Kirk Gibson and the Royals take on…”

  5. I felt that way when the Cardinals signed Will Clark for the stretch run in 2000. I felt like your friend. But then he went on a tear for the last three months and all was forgiven. I guess if we’re comparing this to an actual relationship, that was the make-up sex?

  6. Bugaj says:

    Your friend is not a Yankees fan, but a Red Sox fan with an identity crisis. This type of hatred you describe for an on-field rival is not something Yankees fans can not overcome when a player comes into the fold, especially by his own will, knowing full well he will have to shave his hideous facial rodent.

    I’m a Yankees fan who had a breaking point. They had descended from their World Series years of the late 90’s into a grab-every-overpriced-idiot-but-don’t-win-a-WS phlegm. Roger Clemens, I never liked as a Yankee. It took me years to warm up to Mussina and Giambi. Kevin Brown. Jaret Wright. Carl Pavano. But when they traded a career Yankee like Alfonso Soriano to get a non-winner in Alex Rodriguez, I was fed up. I wrote to my Red Sox friends and told them I was through. This lasted for 4 years, until I came down with a chronic illness and was living in Boston but still convinced my lifelong Yankee father that it would be better to go make his first trip to Ruth’s house in its last year rather than hit Fenway. So we went, and it was wonderful. Still don’t like A-Rod, but they’ve generally repented of their stupid spending ways, even though I knew Austin Jackson was a more useful piece to the team structure than Grandy when they made that trade.

    But Youkilis? Come on. He either works out or he doesn’t. He’s Ibanez and Chavez and Rafael Soriano and all the other 30-something players they snag now to fill holes. The team is not depending on him for its identity. It would be fun if he hits a homer in Fenway after the Red Sox jettisoned him. The guy was always good at getting on base, changed positions for the team. We don’t hate Red Sox players the way the Red Sox fans hate Yankees players. It’d be tough to swallow if we traded for Pedroia tomorrow, but eventually it’d come around, I hope. The hating of acquisitions is in the bad contracts and poor performance, like a Royals signing, not in the players themselves.

  7. frightwig says:

    Who would break up with his team, even if just for 4 years, because it traded for the league’s best player (whose career postseason OPS is nearly the same as Derek Jeter’s, btw) while still in his prime? Because they gave up one homegrown player who had some pop in his bat, but had some widely recognized holes in his game, and was soon replaced by a superior homegrown talent?

  8. Brian says:

    Oh, this reminds me of when Christian Laettner became a Piston (mostly to keep Grant Hill happy)

    My least favorite pro athlete, ever, on my team? NOOOOO.

  9. I love the “No Way” clause. Where do I sign up 🙂

  10. Jon Abbey says:

    “The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is as hot as it has ever been, maybe hotter than ever. “

    this certainly isn’t true, it peaked in 2003/2004 and hasn’t quite been the same since. last year Boston was a joke and it’s unlikely they’ll be serious contenders this year, and it’ll be pretty shocking if NY isn’t terrible in 2014 because of their self-imposed ‘austerity’ plan and the awful year many of their prospects had in 2012. in the meantime, the other three AL East teams have all gotten much better and become genuine threats to one degree or another.

    • Charles Bush says:

      That’S what everyone keeps claiming, that the yankees will be bad. Much like last year when there were supposed to finish well behind Tampa Bay. Reality check for you, it didn’t happen. The yankees find ways to win year in and year out. When someone fails, someone else steps up. The only time i’ll believe the yankees aren’t contenders is when I see it, cause people keep saying it and it simlply hasn’t been true.

    • 0bsessions says:

      Tell that to the 1980’s.

      Prior to contrary belief, the Yankees have been bad before and will likely be bad again.

    • KB says:

      Although the Yankees failed to win the world series in the 1980s, they did win more games in that decade than any other team. Not a bad team, just never good enough.

  11. Rob Smith says:

    The Dodgers once signed Public Enemy #1, Juan Marichal. I couldn’t stand it. Both sides must have been really desperate. Fortunately Marichal was horrible & only lasted a few games. I ended up feeling a little sad for him because he was old and just couldn’t pitch anymore.

  12. Jeff Harris says:

    To paraphrase Seinfeld: “We’re just rooting for laundry”.

  13. Brian says:

    Ha, I laughed when Joe mentioned Jack McDowell’s CYA. It’s fun sometimes to look back on some of the voting years when we really had no clue about advanced stats. That was one year where obviously the wrong guy won based on value. Bob Welch is another egregious one that stands out. I’ve also always been interested in finding out the backstory on who gave Dave Stewart his lone 1st place vote over Bret Saberhagen in 1989. That’s gotta be my favorite because it truly makes no sense. Traditional stats or advanced stats, it doesn’t matter, Stewart gets destroyed in every single one of them. That always made me curious.

  14. Frank says:

    Another aspect of the Youkilis-to-the-Yankees deal is that it is only one year. For players, guys coming off a bad year have to take that route and hope they can prove themselves enough to get a long-term contract somewhere the next year. For teams (especially for over $10 million), they think they can squeeze out one more decent year to fill a hole. Neither of them is all that committed.

    Your friend will get over this, but for now, there is a certain smell of desperation to the Yankees for 2013. If I were a Yankee fan, I would be more upset about that aspect of signing Youkilis. For us Yankee haters, I can’t help but think that their window is finally starting to close.

  15. Thank you for reporting any incident of Yankee fans being unhappy. When the rest of us meet them, they are just spouting off about their 23 titles or how ever many it is now.

  16. Unknown says:

    Where did the term Clemenate come from? I’ve tried searching, but can’t find the answer.

  17. mm45 says:

    I hated Lenny Dykstra when he played for the Mets, but after he got traded to my team (the Phillies) within about a week he became my favorite player. I think my rapid emotional swing was due to the sense I had, especially at that time, that New York and the Mets and Lenny Dykstra were cool and Philadelphia and the Phillies weren’t, and that Dykstra either would refuse to come to Philadelphia or he would complain about how lame the team and the city and the fans were until he could get shipped out to some cooler place. But when it became apparent that he was actually going to be a better player than anybody else on the team and not be negative towards Philadelphia all the time it was possible to have a rapid change of heart.

  18. ira cohen says:

    I can appreciate what the author has to say. Kevin Youkilis is not on my personal “no way” list. Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon and Curt Schilling definitely would have been, though

    • This is no where near as bad as Damon was. He was the idiot behind the idiots. He was signed at the very height of the hatred and hysteria. I was at that game 7 and his HR whizzed by my face. Right now the rivalry has hit a lull and Youk is just an injury replacement. This is no where near Damon in any way

  19. Butch says:

    As a Yankee fan, I welcome Kevin Youkilis. He was run out of Boston on a rail. It’s like saying you hate Fidel Castro, ergo you hate all Cuban refugees. Yes, he was once one of them. But he now despises the Red Sox as much as we do.

    He’s the guy in the movie who was trained to be the world’s greatest assassin, but then his organization turned on him and tried to kill him… only they missed.

    And now he’s looking for vengeance.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Using the assasin analogy, Youkillis today can no longer shoot anyone from 10 feet away. It makes the movie much less interesting when an assasin sucks at his job. Unless it’s a comedy.

  20. mickey says:

    A unique example of this situation was having to navigate feelings about Bo Jackson’s multitasking as KC Royals outfielder and halfback for the KC Chiefs’ hated rival LA/Oakland Raiders. Makes you remember that athletes are employees looking to enhance their careers and don’t have the neurotic and overblown perspective of a typical fan.

  21. Mark Daniel says:

    I really hated it when Damon signed with the Yankees. And I hated him the entire time he was there. Then, he went off to Detroit and elsewhere, and I forgave him. I’m sure ill hate Youkilis as a Yankee, but it’s not as big a deal because he is washed up and needs Yankee magic to be useful again. Plus, it’s not as if the Red Sox are contenders next year.

  22. I HATE Kevin Youkalis, and I always will. I’ve been a die hard Yankees fan since I knew what baseball was, I have even seen baby pictures of me in a yankees hat. I have said many times that I hate the red sox more than I love the yankees, and that eventually changed into “I hate kevin youkalis more than I love the yankees.” I will NEVER be able to root for Kevin Youkalis. Now if Ortiz or another player came over, thatd be a different story. But I absolutly cannot stand even the thought of the God aweful Kevin Youkalis. When I saw him in person, I thought there might not be a human I hate more in this world. Yankees, this is simply unforgivable. And while I am still a yankees fan, I am heartbroken.

  23. ballauthor says:

    As a Braves fan, I’m upset with Youkilis going to the Yanks because he’s EXACTLY the guy who would fit best with the Braves, providing a righthanded bat that makes contact, adding solid defense at third base, and filling the Chipper void with great clubhouse leadership. Griping about the Red Sox/Yankees connection is ludicrious, especially since former Sox always seem to thrive in pinstripes (remember Sparky Lyle?).

    Oh, and by the way, the correct spelling is CAMPANERIS. He’s best remembered as a guy who played all 9 positions in a game.

  24. Will Sheifer says:

    Joe. Please think of something intelligent and relevant to say next time you post an article. This is an example of you not having anything to write about and just pulling some “Youkilis Nightmare Shit” out of your ass.

    Your Biggest Fan

  25. Will Sheifer says:

    By the way you claim, The Yankees Red Sox rivalry is maybe the hottest it has ever been? What are you smoking. The Red Sox finished with 69 wins last year while the Yankees won the division. It wasn’t even close you imbecile

  26. Red Sox fan here. The Red Sox traded Youk. They didn’t want him any more. It has nothing to do with Damon, Clemens or Boggs. He was traded away to Chicago for someone I have already forgotten. Listen to me very carefully, Kevin Youkilis owes the Boston Red Sox or Red Sox nation absolutely nothing. He gave us everything he had. Wish him well and root the Olde Towne Team on to victory in 2013.

  27. brhalbleib says:

    Actually, Joe I have always found it harder to stomach MY player going to play for the OTHER team than a hated player coming to play for me. My Chiefs examples: It broke my heart to see Albert Lewis wearing that Raiders’ uniform and I also didn’t much like seeing Neil Smith and Dale Carter on the Broncos, but when a Raider came to KC (Marcus Allen, most famously, although admittedly I never hated him), it felt you were saving a previously lost soul who now had a chance at redemption.

  28. What Yankees – Red Sox games were you watching lately? Must be the games they televise on ESPN, because they over-hype those games ten-fold. I am a die-hard yankee fan, and the rivalry is dead, there was more of a rivalry between the yanks and rays this past year, even the orioles. red sox are irrelevant.

    I don’t mind the youkilis signing though, baseball is a business, and with the yankees budget, he fit best. im not excited about it, but the dude draws walks, is tough to strike-out and can play in the field. give him a chance.

    and whoever was okay with carl pavano, jaret wright, and kevin brown ever pitching for the yanks should be slapped.

  29. Unknown says:

    Joe, you’re mistaken about how longtime Red Sox fans felt/feel about Roger Clemens. They loathe his lying, cheating ass.

    I’m bummed that, essentially, Valentine ran Youk out of town. But I can’t harbor any bad feelings that he signed with the Yanquis.

  30. C’mon Yankee fans……we may ” hate ” KY now but when he starts winning games for us with walk-offs and dazzling plays at third we’ll be cheering for him louder than ever. We’ll be saying A-Who?

  31. Elyrr Feliz says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  32. Elyrr Feliz says:

    Greg – Kevin Brown at the time was a very good pickup, considering we traded Yhency Brazoban and Jeff Weaver to get him… Brown kinda of annoyed me though when he decided to “Punch the wall with his pitching hand” which ruined that trade. Jared Wright was decent that year where he pitched a full season in NY.

    Pavano on the other hand, and let me say I may dislike players blah blah, but I HATE Carl Pavano… I swear the guy injured himself on purpose… and he was supposed to be a good pickup, we signed him right off a career year… -__-

    I’m going to enjoy watching Youkilis wear down those pitchers (I believe he can still do that better than anybody).

  33. mike.veve says:

    Yankee fans, you guys are going to love Youkilis. He plays like he cares, and he doesn’t ever cede an at-bat. Personally, I wish the Yanks had signed J.D. Drew. Now HE was a player I hated to have on my team!

  34. Hotter than ever? The coupon clipping teams from the east who haven’t been to the series in 3 years? The guy obviously isn’t a real fan, i wonder what he would say if Youk made the difference between making the playoffs or not?
    I will admit i’m glad to see Victorino not coming back, but while he was here i rooted for him like any other player.
    Though this does make me wonder if the blue should go ahead and give Brian Wilson a shot haha

  35. Geesh! I hate when people assume they know what Yankee fans are thinking! If you are on our team…and helping us win…then you are one of us! Go Youk! I hope he has new passion for kicking the Red Sox butt now! As for your friend…he sounds more like a fair weather Met (waahh, waaah) fan.

  36. Brian says:

    “Yay, a bunch of people who comment beneath articles found their way over here. This is the best day ever,” he said sarcastically while glaring at Will Sheifer.

    Seriously Folks, that’s not what this place is for. Please don’t ruin every place for intelligent sports chat. There’s plenty of forums to post nonsense; don’t bring it here.

  37. Bill Toscano says:

    Here’s what Yankee fans do not understand:

    You just won the 2013 World Series.

    This man is old-school baseball with his entire heart and soul. He’s the reason we won two World Series, and he’s likely to take you there.

    First off, there’s a huge difference between getting a current Red Sox player and getting one who has been cast off like a sack of potatoes by a management team that just doesn’t get it.

    He’s got ju-ju, mojo or whatever you want to call it.

    Now if you had Tito, it would all be over.

  38. typical fairweather Yankee fans!!! How about sticking with something or someone thru thick and thin? Now that Mariano, Jeter, Tex and A-Rod are older its now time to throw them under the bus! Sorry! you take the good with the bad!!!!!! Suck it up! and man up!!!!!!! A former Bostonian now living in Tampa!!! GO RAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  39. daveyhead says:

    What kind of MAN is Youkilis? The average fan has no idea, even in this hyper-connected world we live in. Is he a clubhouse leader or someone who divides the team? My impression is the former. I always thought in this day of advanced statistics, why nobody came up with a humanity ranking. Y’know, guys like Mariano or Jeter would get credit statistically for being good human beings, and guys like, oh, say Albert Belle would be docked. Where would that put Ty Cobb? Or how would it boost Ted Williams, a guy who served TWICE in both WWII and in Korea. C’mon, Joe, give it a shot. It would make a hell of a column.

  40. Rufus says:

    I will admit to the practice of ignoring all the previous posts after reading the original “Joe Blog.” I love Joe; he’s the epitome of sports thinking, postulating, ruminating, whatever we are thinking about whatever is going on in sports. So, after reading this blog, thanks Joe. I’m a long suffering Twins fan and a Yankees anti-fan. Thanks.

  41. allan says:

    Ruth was not “a much-despised Red Sox player”. That’s crazy talk. He was loved in Boston.

    As a life-long Sox fan, I will hate Fat Billy from Ohio until the day I die. … And then I will continue hating him.

  42. That’S what everyone keeps claiming, that the yankees will be bad. Much like last year when there were supposed to finish well behind Tampa Bay. Reality check for you, it didn’t happen. The yankees find ways to win year in and year out. When someone fails, someone else steps up. The only time i’ll believe the yankees aren’t contenders is when I see it, cause people keep saying it and it simlply hasn’t been true.


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