Rather than dwell on last night's non-no-hitter (not news), or the Sox dropping their 7th straight against the Unnecessarily Long-named Angels of Lacking Brevity (also not news, sadly), I wanted to shine the spotlight on one of the bright spots of our team.
Quietly, like a hero in the dark (who likes to yell and throw things), Kevin Youkilis is having his best season ever. He has already eclipsed his previous high in homers (16 last year) with 18. Moreover, Youk is ranked 10th in AL batting average (.310) and 9th in slugging (.544). He has transformed into the non-Greek Romanian God of OPS.
To further quantify his value, Youkilis has wracked up a 33 VORP, good for 4th on the team (3rd among hitters) behind Manny, Drew, and Lester. He's one of the few Sox hitters whose performance doesn't decline significantly on the road (.929 road OPS). Youk is also a great October hitter; he raked in 07 playoffs - 4 homers and slugging percentage over .700.
Youk's combination of excellent defense at both corners and solid offense is winning us ballgames. I, for one, am happy to have him instead of Teixeira. One point of concern - his 2nd half slide seems to be starting once again. Historically, Youk has done worse in the 2nd half, and his 50 plate appearances (small sample) in the 2nd half of 08 are pointing towards this - .814 OPS vs .933 in the 1st half. That said, there is still time to turn this around. Maybe this will be Youk's breakout year, and he'll hit the 27+ homers he's on pace for.
Listening to Prozac the Angels
One final thing. With yesterday's loss, the success of the Angels is undeniable. Luckily the Sox can learn some things from the team. Foremost, the Angels have attracted more fans and more revenue by adding "Los Angeles" to their name. The Red Sox should do something similar. Several candidates immediately present themselves:
The Boston Red Sox of Baltimore - Red Sox Nation's benevolent occupation of Camden Yards has been an accomplished fact for years. Considering the hapless state of the Orioles, regional baseball duties should be assigned to the Sox while Baltimore forms a stable democratic government rebuilds their team. Once the O's are competitive again, 100 years later, Theo IV can stand atop the USS Constitution and declare "Mission Accomplished."
The Boston Red Sox of Tokyo - With Matsuzaka and Okajima on the team, this is a natural decision. The only downside would be the need for an annual series in Japan.
The Boston Red Sox of New York - Just as the Anaheim Angels cut into the fanbase of the Dodgers, so can the Sox invade the Yankees' home territory. Now on the surface, this move seems to dilute the rivalry, as it becomes less regional. However, the proximity of players from both teams would spark a competition for sparse resources, leading to conflict and a stronger rivalry. For example, Jeter would compete with Jacoby Ellsbury for loose women. Manny would battle A-Rod in generating controversy. Dan Shaughnessy would compete with the New York Post for most riots incited (they'd lose).
Other lessons to learn from the Angels: field a roster with 7 outfielders*; fail in the playoffs for three seasons (04, 05, 07) before acquiring the marquee slugger you've needed all along; have the best record in baseball by playing in the same division as three rebuilding teams.
* In case you don't believe me: Chone Figgins, Vlad Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Juan Rivera, Reggie Willits, Gary Matthews Jr., Garret Anderson.