By Matt Straub
Like sand through an hour glass, these are the days of our lives ... . Wait, this is a post about the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Sorry, it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. Once again, the play of the Red Sox has been overshadowed by off-field nonsense, and one of the most mentally exhausting seasons in Sox history just keeps plodding along. At least this week’s adventures provided a touching moment. The much-discussed and much-needed end to the Kevin Youkilis era in Boston came Sunday when “Youk” got a triple in his last at-bat at Fenway. It’s unclear exactly what he was told before he went to the plate (a recurring theme in his story we’ll get back to in a minute) but when he was pulled for pinch-runner Nick Punto (a nice touch as the two are reportedly good friends) Youkilis obviously knew he was gone. He tipped his hat to the crowd, hugged teammates and came back out for a curtain call, egged on by Bobby Valentine, who is becoming one of the most disingenuous figures in Boston's sports history. Regardless of the obvious fraud of Valentine leading the applause, it was a really nice moment, even if it did leave me conflicted. I’m not a Youkilis fan. Last week’s entry could have been titled “All the reasons I hate Kevin Youkilis.” His selfishness in the form of a blatant disregard for his teammates as opposed to his own success got so bad that the players once backed Manny Ramirez in a fight against Youkilis in the dugout. He had been asked by teammates to stop throwing things in their direction when he made outs, and he continued, much to their chagrin. His lack of athletic ability was often mistaken for hustle. I don’t doubt Youkilis gave every ounce of energy he had, but sometimes he was just making up for his lack of speed. He looked like a softball player trying to play professional baseball at times. There were two things he could always do, however. The first was catch anything hit near him. His range was never spectacular, but the guy has vacuums for hands. Even in his last game in Boston, he made two really nice plays at third. The other thing he did was produce. “The Greek God of Walks” got on base however was necessary, including getting hit by pitches almost at will. That once brought out his selfishness when he inexplicably charged Rick Porcello and got suspended at a time when the Sox needed him, but at least he was passionate. The one thing you could never say about Youkilis is he didn’t care. And the one thing I have to say to him is thank you. As I get off my soapbox, let’s get to a 5-1 week that has the Sox thinking big again.
|Kevin Youkilis says goodbye to the Fenway crowd. (AP photo)|
The High Point
Maybe I could get used to interleague play if the Red Sox got to play the NL East all the time. Except for one disappointing loss to Atlanta, the Sox had a perfect week. Sunday was the highlight, however. Not only did the Red Sox give Youkilis a proper sendoff, but they won another series with a complete and gutty effort. Aaron Cook made a spot start for the ill Clay Buchholz, and while he wasn’t great, he did enough to help the team. He was backed by a suddenly surging offense, including a pair of bombs from the recently returned Cody Ross. This win was good for two reasons. The first was it showed some depth. Good teams win with more than just their stars. The other was it was another series win. As we talked about last week, you don’t get out of holes by trying to win 10 in a row. You win 2 of 3 as often as possible. The wins add up.
The Low Point
Jair Jurrjens, making his first start after being brought back to Atlanta after a stint in the minors, was one out away from going eight full innings, scattering a couple of hits and making the Red Sox look silly Friday night. Jon Lester wasn’t bad, but pitched just well enough to lose. Again. He’s 4-5 with a 4.48 ERA. Again, there are far worse pitchers, but the Sox need him to be a top-two starter, especially with Josh Beckett on the DL.
|Cody Ross celebrates with Dustin Pedroia. (AP photo)|
Kevin Youkilis: I should have saved that rant from earlier for this spot. He wasn’t a Hall of Famer, but he got on base at nearly a .390 clip, drove in 563 runs and hit .286 in nearly a decade with the Red Sox. He’s one of a few people alive with two Red Sox World Series rings. Most important, whatever his motivation, he played hard every day. For that, he will be missed.
Cody Ross: His return couldn’t have come at a better time. He stabilizes the outfield, brings back some needed power, and is a good personality to have around. He’s hitting .277 since he came back. With Ross back and Youkilis gone, Adrian Gonzalez no longer has to play right field, which is another plus.
Will Middlebrooks: A 10-for-16 run will get the guy blocking you from playing every day traded, especially when it looks like the young man has star potential. We’ve seen flashes in the pan before, but this kid obviously deserved to be playing every day. He has a big hat to fill, but he looks like he can do it.
Clay Buchholz: A bad start was followed by some kind of unexplained intestinal illness that has sent him to the DL. The two are probably related, which would make neither one his fault, but it’s a shame because he was going so well. In fact, he probably doesn’t deserve to be in this spot, but his plight had to be mentioned.
Kelly Shoppach: His complaints about playing time could have him on the way out. Unlike Youkilis, however, there will be far fewer people upset to see him go.
Bobby Valentine: I promise this won’t be as long as the opening rant, but let’s review briefly what a liar this man is. First, he told the media he and Youkilis had a conversation about his playing time in the wake of rumors of the potential trade that came days later. Then after Youkilis let it spill that no one had told him anything, Valentine said he thought someone had spoken to Youkilis. So for starters, his view of a conversation is having an assistant talk to a player. Hey, this is a step up from the start of the year, when he was too good to tell his players if they were playing until right before the game. Second, he couldn’t even tell the truth about it. I’d have more respect for him if he had just said “Kevin will play when I say so and that’s all he needs to know.” He continues to treat players like they are names on a computer screen and he is a fantasy baseball player. This might fit his ownership group’s wishes, but it’s not how to run a baseball team in the 21st century. If you’re going to be a jerk, at least be an honest one. Valentine’s display Sunday was disgusting, as the manager went on acting like he was the biggest cheerleader for a guy he has spent all year dumping on. He’s been right, but he stopped being honest this week.
The Red Sox host a depleted Toronto team to start the week, then head out west for a key trip, starting in Seattle. There’s 10 games left until the Yankees come to Boston. By the way Yankee Universe, the Red Sox, despite all the chaos, are just 5 ½ back. By the way II, Chicago comes to Boston Monday, July 16.
More on the Red Sox: