Thursday, August 5, 2010

Do you appreciate me NOW?!?

I thought we'd weathered the storm. Dustin Pedroia was out for an extended period with a broken foot, and for me that's top 3 WORST NEWS EVER. Unfortunately, just when we were all thinking that things couldn't possibly be worse, the baseball gods decided to piss all over our feeble dreams.

Kevin Youkilis will undergo season-ending surgery on his right thumb tomorrow, after tearing his abductor muscle. What did we do to get the universe so angry at us?!?

Say it ain't so, Youk!

This is a tough blow. Kevin Youkilis was snubbed by Joe Girardi for the All-Star Game, but his numbers have been more than All-Star worthy, batting .307 with a .975 OPS, 62 RBIs, and 19 homers in 102 games.

Youkilis is easily on the same playing field as the Mark Teixeiras, Justin Morneaus, and even Albert Pujols's of the game in several statistical areas, and yet he's rarely or never mentioned in the same breath as these players.

I'm sure a lot of this bias is simply aesthetic judgment: Youkilis has an unconventional stance, his body type is not that of the traditional star, and his goatee, while impressive, is not the type of facial hair associated with a golden boy. This is such a shame, as Youkilis is truly among the elite first basemen in the game, and, if given the chance, could probably be among the best across the diamond at the hot corner.

Youkilis is a sweaty, sweaty man... but he's also one of the best players in the American League.

Once dubbed "the Greek God of Walks" by Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, Youkilis has certainly branched out. The once-chubby 8th rounder with the funny swing and excellent sense of the strike zone has become a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat, and yet he's consistently overlooked, even in baseball-crazy Boston.

In 2008, there were some fans and members of the media that argued for Youkilis to get the AL MVP Award over teammate Dustin Pedroia, and though it pains me to admit it, they had a point. Pedroia's appearance as a scrappy fighter who succeeds at the major league level on sheer grit and attitude certainly helped him, but the same description could easily be applied to Youkilis. The Globe's Jackie MacMullan summed it up well: "He does not look like an MVP candidate; more a refrigerator repairman, a butcher, the man selling hammers behind the counter at the True Value hardware store."

Pedey, of course, was the 2008 MVP, while Youk took second place.

Youk went undrafted out of high school, and was left out again after his junior year at the University of Cincinnati - despite being first team All Conference USA and second team All-American - mostly because of his strange swing and stout build. Thankfully, the Red Sox took a chance on him in 2001.

In the years since, Kevin Youkilis has been so consistent that no one seems to notice what he brings to the team every day. A Gold Glover at first, and arguably as quick with the leather when Tito slides him across the diamond, Youkilis is not prone to streaks with the bat, but just plods along, ending with a batting average around .300, with nearly 100 RBIs and about 25 home runs each year.

And yet, there are few accolades for the sweaty gamer. The local press might give him a pat on the back once in a while, but he is all but ignored nationally, which is an oversight that borders on criminal. Perhaps his absence will teach Red Sox fans to appreciate him more, and finally show the national media machines what he truly means to this team.

I'm sure his teammates miss him already... I know I do.

1 comment:

  1. Youk will surely be missed. By the way, Youk actually came in third place in 2008.