The first time I became aware of Kevin Youkilis was when I read Moneyball. He was referred to as the “Greek God of Walks” and was a player that Oakland A’s maestro Billy Beane wanted to help build his OBP-heavy squad. The Boston Red Sox correctly held onto him and that worked out pretty darn well.
A Cincinnati-native, Youkilis played college ball for the Cincinnati Bearcats and was then taken in the eighth round of the 2001 MLB Draft. He only needed three years to make his MLB debut, as he appeared in 72 games during the magical 2004 season. That’s right, he has a World Series ring from 2004, even though he was just on the roster and not someone who actually played.
Before he got to help bring in that historic title, he made his MLB debut on May 15, 2004 and it was a good one. He went 2-for-4 with a home run, helping launch a relatively decent rookie season when he slashed .260/.367/.413 with 18 extra-base hits. Still, it wasn’t until 2006 that Youkilis really became a regular in the Red Sox lineup. That year, his age-27 season, he slashed .279/.381/.429 with 13 home runs and 72 RBI. He also set what would end up being a career-high with 91 walks. He was worth 2.7 bWAR that season as the every day first baseman. Of course, Youkilis came up as a third baseman, but he transitioned to the other side of the diamond to make room for Mike Lowell. It wasn’t the first time he played a different position than usual, as he even spent time in the outfield during his Red Sox tenure.
It was in 2007 that Youkilis really began to make a name for himself outside of Moneyball readers and Red Sox fans. He won a Gold Glove that year and batted .288/.390/.453 with 16 home runs and 83 runs batted in. Plus, the Red Sox won the World Series once again. He would make his first of three All-Star games a year later and, including 2007, post an OPS+ of 136 over the course of the next five seasons while owning an on-base percentage of nearly .400. In that time he was worth at least six wins twice (2008 and 2009) and five wins thrice (2010).
In 2011, Youkilis was finally pushed back to third base after the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez. He responded with a lower batting average than usual (.258), but he till slammed 17 home runs and recorded an OPS+ above 120.
Then 2012 happened. After the disaster of a collapse in 2011, the Red Sox brought in Bobby Valentine, who was a terrible manager in Boston partially because he threw players under the bus, something he did more than once with Youkilis. While Youkilis had been a part of a few dustups in the past, the fact that a manger would go after him like Valentine did was too far, in this writer’s opinion.
The strained relationship between the two was undoubtedly part of the reason Youk was traded to the Chicago White Sox on June 24, 2012 for the immortal Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart. He then signed with the New York Yankees the following offseason, but we won’t talk about that, especially since he only played in 28 games for New York before his playing days came to an end.
Over the course of his Red Sox career, Youkilis was worth 31.3 bWAR and accounted for 494 walks with an OBP of .388. He also added 133 homers and an OPS+ of 126, while playing whatever position the Sox needed him to, including left field. He also, as mentioned above, won two World Series, made three All-Star games and actually finished in the top three in MVP voting one year (2008). He isn’t going to be enshrined in Cooperstown but he most certainly deserves to be remembered by the Red Sox, and not just because he could take a walk.
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