Today, Kevin Youkilis, otherwise known as Youk and the Greek God of Walks will be voted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Youk had these goofy stances where the first time you ever saw him come up to the plate, you thought you were watching something straight out of the movie Major League. Then all of a sudden you stop laughing when you realize, “This guy can hit!” I remember watching him hit his first career home run in his MLB debut off of Pat Hentgen and give the Red Sox a much needed spark in late May (his May 2004 line wound up .318/.446/.924). He cooled off and was sent back down when Mueller was healthy, but already looked like he fit in with Johnny Damon & Kevin Millar as the “Cowboy Up!” trend quickly caught on and the “Idiots” were born. The idea was, the Yankees are clean cut and vanilla, so they wanted to go as far as possible in the opposite direction. Shaved heads. Handlebar mustaches. Nothing was out of bounds. The trend later caught on with Pedroia, Napoli, Gomes and others in the 2013 World Series run when they instituted a “no shave” policy.
When Youkilis came up again in 2005 he didn’t do much to dazzle anyone, but he was very solid in the opportunities he got with Olerud, Millar & Mueller eating up most of the opportunities. Then all of a sudden the Sox cut ties with Olerud, Millar & Mueller, Youkilis was rewarded for his hard work and patience with the first base job (though he came up a third baseman) and he came out the gates scorching in 2006.
March/April: .299/.406/.414 – 819 OPS (1 HR)
May: .333/.463/.545 – 1.009 OPS (4 HR)
June: .309/.389/.505 – .895 OPS (4 HR)
He cooled off to have a mediocre 2nd half by what would become his standards (.258/.347/.381) but was becoming an especially strong defender after a permanent move to first base to accommodate newly acquired Mike Lowell. At 27 years of age, Youkilis was pretty old to be getting his first real shot, but the Youk chants had begun and it was clear that Kevin Youkilis was here to stay. He went on to become an anchor in the middle of the Red Sox order with an OPS of .958-.975 from 2008-2010. He finished 3rd in the MVP voting in 2008 and 6th in 2009. He only won 1 Gold Glove, but make no mistake he was one of the best defenders in the American League. He unfortunately shared that honor with Mark Teixeira and Carlos Pena during his prime.
Despite some late controversy in his Red Sox career mostly at the fault of Bobby Valentine, Youkilis made a huge impact in a short time in Boston. He had an OBP of .388 in his time in Boston and hit 133 home runs and always seemed to epitomize a team player, moving wherever his manager asked him to if it would help the team. He helped Boston win the World Series in 2007 and despite his numbers putting him nowhere a birth in Cooperstown, Youkilis remains one of the most important pieces in recent memory and a clear fan favorite from 2006-2012.
So again, welcome back to Boston Kevin Youkilis! I can hear the drone already from here: Yooooouuuuuuuk!