When Kevin Youkilis left the Red Sox last year, the team's heart seemed to depart with him. He was beloved in Boston as a contributor to the team's World Series Championship runs in 2004 and 2007. How many Red Sox players in the past 90 years can say they have not one, but two rings? Throughout his 9-year career with Boston, the versatile infielder played with intensity and determination that endeared him to the passionate fans of Red Sox nation.
No love lost with Valentine
But when Bobby Valentine, the outspoken manager of the 2012 team, questioned Youk's heart on April 15 by saying, "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason,'' many people were perplexed. Was this the way Valentine motivated his players, calling them out publicly instead of speaking to them privately? The comments didn't sit well with Youk, Dustin Pedroia, the media, and the fans. Although Valentine apologized, the damage was done, to both Youk and the team. Fan favorite Youkilis was traded on June 24 to the White Sox for unknown utility man Brent Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart.
Youk signs contract with the Yankees
The aging and ailing Yankees needed to make some moves in the off season, and Alex Rodriguez's injured hip made Youk's stock rise in the eyes of his former arch rival. Youk, who can play third base, first base, and DH, signed a one-year, $12 million deal with the Yankees in December. When the Red Sox open their 2013 regular season at Yankee Stadium on April 1, Youk will be in pinstripes, most likely manning third base. It's a stunning role reversal, from fierce friend to facile foe.
Reaction in Boston
Fans at Fenway Park gave Youkilis a rousing send-off in his last game with the Red Sox. But what kind of reception will he experience when he returns to Boston for the first time as a Yankee on July 19? If it's anything like the treatment Johnny Damon received, the cry of "Youuuuuuuk" will be replaced by loud boos. Playing for Boston's arch enemy is the height of betrayal for Sox fans. Youkilis stated that signing with the Yankees wasn't easy, but "I thought it was the best opportunity to win the World Series." One wonders what signs the creative fans at Fenway will greet Youk with when he arrives because it won't be easy for them to see their former favorite player in a Yankees uniform.