Kevin Youkilis gets: 1 year, $12 million
Seemingly, former Red Sox come to the Yankees in droves (Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon most recently), while no one ever seems to go the other way north. Hmm. Must be something in the water. Or the air. Or the city. Or the fans. Whatever. I don't have a vendetta or anything.
Kevin Youkilis agreed to a one year, $12 million dollar contract with the New York Yankees to be the team's part-time third and first baseman, as well as occasional DH. The Yanks proclaimed throughout the offseason that whoever they'd sign would have to play a majority of innings manning third, as a 37 year-old A-Rod has proven that he's not up to the stress of the hot corner day to day.
Well that was before a left hip surgery that will leave Rodriguez sidelined until at least May, if not the All-Star break in July. By that time, the former three-time AL MVP will be close to 38 years old and entering into his third consecutive season in which he only missed at least a fourth of the year's games. In that sense, the need for an established third baseman became even more important, seeing as the most healthy hips A-Rod will be getting close to this year are Torrie Wilson's. Damn.
Youkilis' bat comes to the Yankees as a welcome relief from the free-swinging, narrowly minded home run team that notoriously self-destructed during the ALCS last year in a disgraceful sweep to the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees hit a combined .157 in that series with 36 strikeouts to only 22 hits and 3 home runs for a New York squad that set a franchise record for most jakks in a regular season. The Bombers looked more like Punters for four feeble games which really personified what the Yankees degraded to at the end of the season--a power hitting team that relied on the long ball for runs, rather than manufacture them and wear out opposing starters. In the end, against the very best in the American League, Detroit and very nearly Baltimore were able to expose the Yankees' weakness by placing balls on the corners and getting a very strikeout-prone team to chase for nine games straight. For a line-up that were supposed to be comprised of experienced veterans, the Yankees looked like impatient minor leaguers in their first playoff series.
And if there's a couple things that Kevin Youkilis is, it's being a patient hitter that's able to stroke the double and get on base. Even at the very end of his prime at age 34, Youk saw the third most pitches per plate appearance this year in all of baseball, behind the resurgent Adam Dunn and the surprising (MAMBINO favorite) A.J. Ellis. The former Red Sox's on-base percentage slipped on the whole (.336), but was very solid after his trade to the White Sox at .346. In only 122 games and in a down year, Youkilis had 36 extra-base hits, including 15 doubles and 19 home runs. He's the antithesis of what Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and of course Alex Rodriguez showed last October.
At the point in their careers, Youkilis might be in just as bad physical shape as A-Rod, but he might be a better alternative. As pointed out from our resident Yanks fantatic El Miz, here are the 2011-2012 averages for Youk and Rodriguez:
Games: Rodriguez 111, Youkilis 121
Hits: Rodriguez 115, Youkilis 107
Doubles: Rodriguez 19, Youkilis 24
Homers: Rodriguez 17, Youkilis 18
RBI: Rodriguez 60, Youkilis 70
OBP: Rodriguez .358, Youkilis .355
Slugging: Rodriguez .401, Youkilis .434
WAR: Rodriguez 2.9, Youkilis 2.5
The Yankees won't miss Rodriguez much with Youkilis replacing him on offense, though there is the possibility that the new Bomber is about to fall off the face of the Earth in terms of performance. Then again, it seems that Rodriguez has already done that. While Youk has been slightly better than Rodriguez, they're essentially just paying for another guy to hold his spot down with the same type of relative bat while he's on the shelf. It's strange that Yankees fans might hate the ex-Boston player less at third than they would the regular who won two MVPs with the team.
The real problem here is defense--the Yankees are positively ancient on the left side of the infield, which isn't going to get better considering another year and major ankle surgery for Derek Jeter. Youk's defensive acumen at third base has been declining for years, and it's gotten to the point where he's a bit of a liability. He's not going to get better, so it seems that both with the bat and the glove that it's a relatively static situation. Overall, as an outside observer, this is a good deal for the Yankees, because while Youkilis isn't statistically that much different that A-Rod, maybe his patient approach at the plate and grinding attitude will be infectious to a NY team that didn't seem to show any of that in September and October.
However, as a Yankees fan, I can't imagine how this feels. For years, Youk killed the Yankees, throwing a .915 OPS against them in 442 plate appearances, almost entirely a part of the hated Red Sox. I contacted my college roommate and ridiculous Yankees fan Hermano, who went on a stream of consciousness rant which I think really personifies his rage at the moment:
Here's some points to hit upon which I know many Yankees fans are sharing right now:
1) The outrageous costs of Yankees games is starting to become disenchanting, and it reflects in the subdued nature of fans at games. I've gotten this sense at games that I'm surrounded by people who can afford Yankees tickets...not by die hard fans. I can't help compare Phillies games to Yankees games. They're louder and more into it, namely because they're poorer and this is what they live for.
2) The NY Post, the day after the Yanks got eliminated from the ALCS, had this cover. How could NY be let down by the Yankees? I get that the Yanks are the front runners because of their lineup and payroll, but how can making it to the ALCS be considered a let down? This sense of entitlement has always been there, but for me its reached a fever pitch and it's insane.
3) Effing Youkilis??? Serious? This epitomizes points 1 and 2 above. The team is no longer geared to the die-hards who want to win, but are able to suffer the pains of losing. Now, the fan base seems like its people who don't take offense that Youkilis on the team, so long as I can see the Yanks win from their $100 third tier seats--where they can barely differentiate a player from the base he's standing next to, while the $300 box seat attendee hardly notices who the hell is playing third despite his great view because he's too busy eating a big fat steak at NYY Steakhouse, in the stadium, for half the game while occasionally watching a pitch or two from the flat screen in the restaurant, all this occurring while fans sneaking down to sit in his seats are turned away by the more overly aggressive than ever before bouncers who are paid extra to make sure groundlings like me stay in the shitty seats I can barely afford.
Seriously--they had the best record in the AL--and you call them losers? And then they sign Youkilis, and you don't get pissed or mention the treachery involved with such a deal? Maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm just pissed because I can't buy $15 Yankees tickets like I can to Phillies games.
Youk's signing made me realize I need to take a vacation and root for an NL team this year.
I'm now accepting applications (it won't be the Phillies).
The point my man is trying to make here is that the casual mercenary-like hiring of Youkilis is completely indicative of the attitude a lot of Yankees fans have towards the team right now. It seems that a person who was once victim of the loudest boos at Yankee Stadium will now have his name chanted by the right field Bleacher Creatures pre-game. And that's okay in 2012. Most fans I know hate this trade, not only because it represents a rival coming over from Boston, but he's not a discernible upgrade over Rodriguez.
Perhaps Youkilis fits into the Yankees plans in terms of his contract demands and projected skill set, but it's clear that he'll have a much harder time than that adjusting to the fanbase who already look at him with a very skeptical eye.