State of the Yankees: Kevin Youkilis, from Villain to Acceptance
It’s a warm, early spring night in the Bronx. Kevin Youkilis steps up to the plate, and hits a ground ball that goes just past the shortstop and third baseman for a base hit, his second one of the night.
A long chorus of “Yoouuukkkk” from the 34,000 fans echoes throughout Yankee stadium. If a similar scene were to occur within the past few years, when Youkilis was on the hated Boston Red Sox squad, one can almost guarantee the home New York crowd would have replaced “Youk” with “Boooo”.
It’s amazing how fast allegiances can change in sports.
There was a lot of opposition from the Yankees faithful when they first learned that Youkilis would be joining New York this year. Not only was he a notorious Yankee killer in the past, but was coming off a season in which he had career lows in average, on-base percentage, and RBI’s. Not to mention, he only appeared in 122 games due to various injuries that kept him off the field.
To further question the acquisition, the Bronx Bombers let third baseman Eric Chavez sign with the Diamondbacks in December 2012. Chavez had spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with New York, and surpassed expectations last year when he was called upon more regularly because of the injured Alex Rodriguez. Chavez had a higher on-base percentage last year and his batting average was almost 50 points higher than Youkilis’ as well.
The most intriguing part of this is that Chavez signed with Arizona on a one year, $3 million dollar deal while the Yankees got Youkilis with a one year, $12 million dollar deal. Youkilis is getting paid four times the amount of Chavez based off of inferior 2012 stats.
However, this is the 2013 season, not 2012, and Youkilis’ poor play of last year seems like a distant memory now.
He has been on a torrid start to the season for the Bronx Bombers, hitting safely in 10 of New York’s first 12 games, resulting in a team leading .348 batting average. There has also been some pop in his bat, as 6 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases. He also has been getting on base frequently by sporting a .413 on-base percentage.
Youkilis has not only got it done at the plate, but in the field as well as he has yet to make an error while fielding the hot corner for the Yankees.
It was vital for Youkilis to get off to this type of start in his first season in Pinstripes. Not only was he one of the most despised Red Sox player in recent memory, but the fans in New York are not too kind to any newcomer that does not contribute right away. Lucky for him, he has won over the home crowd with his hustle and grit so far.
Youkilis provides a solid bat at the plate, a veteran presence in the locker room, and a fiery passion on the field to win every game. As long as he continues to provide those things, then the “Yooukkk” cheer at Yankee Stadium should never turn into boos.
For more, look below for a recent interview with Kevin Youkilis.
Nolan Silbernagel is a Yankees and Devils beat reporter for WFUV Sports.