Last night, we were all treated to the deeply bizarre sight of Kevin Youkilis wearing a White Sox uniform for the first time. It's difficult to see a player you've known so well for so long suiting up for another squad, and honestly I hope it doesn't ever get easier. Understanding that baseball is a business and that players are basically temps is important, but I find it reassuring that I still care enough to feel lousy when a longtime favorite goes away.
With Youk, of course, the connection goes well back into the past. For one thing, he's the last continuous connection to the previous regime. It's easy to forget given how well Youk fits into the OBP-heavy, analysis-driven image of the current Sox front office, but Youkilis was drafted by Dan Duquette. With Youk gone, the book officially closes on Duquette's legacy here. (Actually, Kelly Shoppach was also drafted by Duquette, but of course he's bounced around quite a bit since then.)
More importantly, of course, Youk was one of the last two of The 25, the players on Boston's 2004 World Series roster. I thought it might be interesting to stroll down memory lane and look at that squad and where they went after the Series win. First, the offense, and a bit later, the pitchers.
Jason Varitek: Tek was a free agent after the 2004 season, but re-signed with Boston. He was then named the team's official captain, and served in that capacity through last season. You may recall weeping uncontrollably at his retirement this spring. The widespread assumption is that there's a coaching job open for him as soon as he decides he wants one.
Doug Mirabelli: Also a free agent, Mirabelli was re-signed to serve again as Tim Wakefield's catcher, then traded after the '05 season for Mark Loretta. After a month of watching Josh Bard desperately flail at knucklers,Boston decided enough was enough and reacquired Doug (in a police motorcade you may recall). He played with the Sox through 2007, and retired in '08.
Kevin Millar: Best known for inflicting the horror that was "Cowboy Up" on Boston in 2003, Millar redeemed himself with a critical walk in Game Four of the ALCS, a walk which (after the greatest steal in history) became the tying run against Mariano Rivera. He played one more season in Boston after the '04 win, then played three years in Baltimore and one in Toronto. He now says not overly-considered things loudly and jokingly on MLB Network.
Doug Mientkiewicz: Acquired at midseason in the Nomar trade as defensive backup for Millar, the guy my girlfriend still refers to affectionately as "Eye Chart" was traded to the Mets in January of 2005. He then played for the Royals, Yankees, Pirates, and Dodgers before leaving the sport in 2010.
Mark Bellhorn: After a surprisingly heroic playoff run, Bellhorn only played another half-season with Boston, released by the team in August of 2005. He was picked up by the Yankees, then bounced around the league. He didn't play after 2007.
Orlando Cabrera: It's kind of crazy realizing that Cabrera only played in Boston for three months. One of the quickest fan favorites Boston's ever seen, he didn't fit the team's ongoing needs (neither did Edgar Renteria, it turned out), and he was signed by Anaheim. On the brighter side, the draft picks Boston gained for losing Cabrera turned into Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie.
Pokey Reese: 2004 was actually the last hurrah for the defensive whiz. He signed a few deals after '04, but never got into major-league action. We'll always have his inside-the-park homer, at least.
Bill Mueller: After his series-saving grounder against Rivera in Game Four, Mueller played one more season in Boston. A free agent after 2005, he wound up signing with the Dodgers after Boston traded for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. He played infrequently in LA, and retired at the end of the season.
Kevin Youkilis: Youk took over the starting first base job in 2006, was a critical piece of the Sox' 2007 Series win, and served as one of the team's offensive anchors for a few years. Occasionally, though, someone younger and better comes along. Hopefully Youk gets a few good years in Chicago before he has to hang 'em up,
Johnny Damon: Never in baseball will you see a turnaround in fan response as swift as what happened to Johnny Damon. Damon was arguably the most popular of the 2004 Red Sox, a charismatic, talented leadoff hitter who came through repeatedly in the playoffs. You couldn't go anywhere in Boston in 2005 without seeing at least one person in a Damon shirtsey. Upon free agency after that season, he signed with the Yankees. At which point things got a bit ugly. He's now playing in Cleveland, and still getting booed anytime he sets foot near Fenway. Baseball is cruel.
Trot Nixon: Trot had been beaten up most of the 2004 season, but came back for the playoffs and performed pretty well. He played two more years here, showing off decent defense, solid power, and the filthiest hat in the history of the sport. A free agent after 2006, he wound up in Cleveland when the Red Sox signed JD Drew. He returned to Fenway that year for the ALCS, playing in three games for the Indians as they lost to Boston. Trot played in a few games for the Mets in 2008, tried to sign on with the Brewers the next year, but wound up released.
Manny Ramirez: Honestly, too depressing. Let's just remember him holding that "Jeter's playing golf today, this is better" sign and move on.
Gabe Kapler: Kapler spent his entire career as the prototypical backup outfielder, and served quite well in that role in Boston. He played two more years here, and then served as the manager of the Greenville Drive for a year. Apparently managing wasn't as fun as playing, and Kapler went back to the majors, playing for Milwaukee and Tampa.
David Ortiz: Papi's still here. After displaying all of the clutch in the 2004 postseason, Ortiz signed an extension with Boston, and just got better as a hitter. It's now his tenth season in Boston, and it could well wind up being his best. He's all that's left of a team that changed everything, and shows no signs of going away anytime soon.
Next up, the pitching staff.