On April 27, 2007, Kevin Youkilis hit his first career home run at Yankee Stadium. A two-run shot off Andy Pettitte to give the Red Sox an early 2-0 lead. Boston went on to win the game 11-4, and in the process, delivered the Yankees their seventh consecutive loss.
Youkilis hit another Bronx blast in August of that same season (a meaningless eighth inning job off Kyle Farnsworth), but that was it. He finished with only two careers home runs at the old Yankee Stadium before they tore it down and replaced it with the monstrosity that sits there today (aka The House That Joba Built).
In 2009, the first season in the new park, Youkilis went homerless in New York, but still had a great time in the rivalry. He hit .328 with four homers, 10 RBI and a 1.052 OPS in 17 games against the Yankees that year, with the highlight coming on April 24, when he hit a walk-off 11th inning homer off Damaso Marte.
(If MLB had a heart or a brain, this is where Id link to the official video of Youks walk-off. It would be a lot of fun. Although apparently not as fun as raging against the Internet. Right, Bud? But thankfully, theres still amateur footage and for the purpose of this column, thats probably even better. Even though you can barely see Youkilis in this clip, you can most definitely feel how much he meant to this city; And more, how much the Red Sox meant to this city. This was only three years ago but feels closer to 30.) (UPDATE: Turns out that Youk's walk-off actually is viewable on MLB.com. Still wish that baseball would just let YouTube users run wild with their footage, like the NBA does, but this is certainly better than nothing)
Anyway, his first home run in the new stadium came on May 13, 2010 an eighth inning blast off Chan Ho Park and the very next day, with the Sox down 5-0 in the sixth inning, Youkilis hit a solo shot off CC Sabathia to kick start a comeback win.
(Almost done. I swear.)
He then hit two more in May of 2011. The first, a seventh inning dong off Joba Chamberlain to give the Sox a 5-2 lead. The second, two days later, a three-run shot off Freddy Garcia to kick start another comeback.
But again, that was it.
As of today, Kevin Youkilis has six career home runs at Yankee Stadium.
As of last night? No. 7 has taken on a whole new meaning.
Thats because the next time we all see Kevin Youkilis, he'll be wearing pinstripes. The next time he hits a home run, he'll jog back into the dugout, throw a fist bump at Derek Jeter and break off into an elaboratereally awkward hand shake with Curtis Granderson. The next time Youk slams his helmet after a strikeout, that helmet's liable to ricochet off the dugout steps and shatter Alex Rodriguez's hip.
That's because Kevin Youkilis is a Yankee.
And aside from that part about ARod, the whole situation has left Boston with a confusing, somewhat unsettling and ultimately emotionless feeling.
On one hand, this is supposed to make Red Sox fans mad. When a player who's meant as much to the organization as Youkilis defects to the dark side, it's supposed to be a deal breaker. It's supposed to mean that he's a traitor. We're supposed to hate him, and boo him to excruciating death the next time he dares show his face at Fenway Park.
But with Youkilis, the anger's not there. While I'm sure there will be some boos, there won't be the same kind of drama and animosity surrounding Youk's pinstripe return compared to guys like Boggs, Clemens or Damon.
For one, because of the seven homers I mentioned above, on top of everything else that Youkilis did for this team and city over the course of eight and a half years. Second, because the Red Sox traded him, and did so in exchange for a pile of spoiled garbage. Third, because it's not like Youk had very many options. It was either take a two-year18M deal to join Tito and the rebuilding project in Cleveland, or take a one-year deal with the Yankees for 12M (!?) and the chance for another ring. What would you do?
Another factor is that Youk's just not the player that he used to be. There's no real concern that he'll head to New York and set the American League on fire. Instead, it will be a miracle if his body can even hold up for an entire season.
On that note, for all the discussion that will take place today, there's no guarantee that Youkilis even makes it to Fenway. Thanks to a weird scheduling glitch, the Yankees don't come to Boston this season until after the All-Star Break. July 19! Will you be shocked if Youk's already on the shelf?
But let's just assume that he's not. That on July 19, Kevin Youkilis arrives in Boston as the starting third baseman for the New York Yankees. Do you really expect to hear a lot of boos?
Despite how ridiculous and offensive it looks on paper, and unless Youkilis goes all WWE and spends Spring Training telling the world how much he wants to kick the Red Sox ass, will anyone even care?
I don't think so. And as much as that might be unique to the Youkilis situation, it also ties in to a larger problem that currently haunts the Red Sox organization:
It's getting harder and harder to care.
And for that, I think there's definitely some booing in order when Youkilis takes the field at Fenway. But it shouldn't be aimed at Youk, or ARod or Joba or anyone in a Yankee uniform. Instead, save your boos for the owner's box. For John Henry and Tom Werner (if you can find him). And save something extra special for Larry Lucchino.
They're the reason we're here. They're the reason Kevin Youkilis plays for the Yankees. Why John Lackey still plays for the Red Sox. Why this team has gone from the top of the world to historic underachievers to arguably the worst team (on paper) in the AL East. Why so many fans have grown disenchanted and disconnected with the Boston Red Sox, and why now, more than three years since their last playoff appearance and more than a year removed from absolute rock bottom, the organization still lacks direction and any real hope for a return to the top.
Of course, Youkilis isn't entirely innocent in what's transpired over the last few months. Prior to being traded, there's no doubt that he'd become was of the most unhappy and ornery figures in the Red Sox clubhouse and that, combined with his lack of production and Will Middlebrooks' emergence, he certainly pushed the Red Sox towards setting the wheels in motion on his future with the Yankees. But at the same time, that was a product of the environment that's been perpetuated by the owners.
Youk was never a guy who had aspirations of playing beyond Boston. He loved Boston. He was Boston. Hell, he even married into the First Family. In theory, Youkilis never had to leave. Couldn't you have seen him in this market forever? Maybe taking a job with NESN or somenoe else in the media and eventually hosting his own local radio show somewhere down the line? I could have. He was destined for a mutual eternity in Red Sox Nation.
Then the owner's killed it. They killed Red Sox Nation. Granted, they're also responsible for two World Series trophies, and for that we'll be forever grateful. But in the time since, through marketing antics, a lack of leadership, questionable motives and the general deception that surrounds everything they do, ownership has cheapened the very thing that Red Sox fans used to thrive on. The very reason why we used to care so much about these players, these rivalries and this team. And now, it barely registers.
Kevin Youkilis is on the Yankees? Eh, big deal.
Although it might be on Opening Day Red Sox at Yankees after Youk jacks the seventh home run of his Yankee Stadium career.
Rich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine