Friday, December 6, 2013
BOSTON -— Maybe this time, everyone can take the high road.
Kevin Youkilis is gone. He's in Chicago, trying to prove to the world that he is not in the twilight of his career.
The Red Sox moved quickly in shipping Youkilis out of Boston, not letting a simmering player-management feud reach the boiling point.
It has been a tempestuous season at Fenway Park, with talk of a toxic clubhouse and unrest in Red Sox Nation after a slow start.
In the eyes of many fans, there has been plenty of blame to throw around on a team that has spent most of the season near the AL East basement.
When it comes to the end of Youkilis' career in Boston, there should be plenty of credit to go around.
First, credit the player himself. For most of the year, the veteran said all the right things. Youkilis didn't let unexpected criticism from his manager in April dissolve into a war of words. He spent much of the spring helping Will Middlebrooks -- his replacement at third base -- learn the ropes at the major league level.
And, in the end, he hit. Youkilis finished his Red Sox career with a four-game hitting streak, going 6 for 14 with two walks while a handful of teams were scouting him. He hit an RBI triple in his final at-bat, the ultimate walk-off hit before a frenzied Fenway Park.
Give credit to Ben Cherington. The general manager could have waited another month, looking to increase Youkilis' trade value in the days and weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
He didn't. Knowing Middlebrooks needed to get in the lineup now, the GM cleared the clubhouse of a potential distraction.
He didn't get a lot in return, but he got something. Now Middlebrooks gets to play every day while Youk gets a new lease on his baseball life.
And credit Bobby Valentine for finding a way to keep Youkilis, Middlebrooks and Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup most nights. Gonzalez played 18 games in right field while the other two men played the corner infield positions.
On Sunday, in his final game with the Red Sox, Youkilis got one more start at third base while Middlebrooks gave David Ortiz a day off as the DH.
Now, with the return of Cody Ross, Gonzalez is back at his rightful place on the right side of the infield. The Sox have a relatively stable lineup for the first time in two months.
As we know in Boston, breakups like this seldom go well. Players like Nomar Garciaparra and Johnny Damon felt the team and its fans turned their backs on them when they left town. Former manager Terry Francona still feels he was the victim of a smear campaign this winter.
Undoubtedly, Youkilis will have some hurt feelings about what happened in his final season in Boston. His brother even took to Twitter before the trade to complain about Red Sox management.
Hopefully, Youkilis will ultimately realize the Sox did right by him, moving him to a team in contention and getting him out of town before he had to listen to more talk about how Middlebrooks needed to play every day.
We hope the team has nothing but good things to say about a player who gave it everything he had for 8½ seasons in Boston. We want our athletes to bust their butts on the field, and Youk did that from the first day he wore the uniform to the last.
The White Sox are back in town July 16. Those won't be boos you'll hear for the visiting third baseman. They'll be fans yelling "YOOOUUUK!"
Let's hope by then that Youkilis and the Red Sox realize this trade was the best thing that could happen to both sides.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.