Monday, June 25, 2012


Those people who saw the 2011 film Moneyball might remember a conversation Pitt’s and Hill’s characters had about a then minor league baseball player named Kevin Youkilis, or as Hill’s character referred to him: “the Greek god of walks.”  This is taken from the non-fiction book the movie is based on.  In that book the author referred to him as “Euclis: the Greek god of walks”.  (Euclis; Euclid: get it?)  He called him this because Youkilis walked more than any player at any level of professional baseball, other than Barry Bonds, and because the author assumed his surname made him Greek.  It makes for a fun reference, but there were two things wrong with that title being bestowed on him.  The first is that Kevin Youkilis does not have any Greek ancestry.  The second is best illustrated by a joke his then-Manager Terry Francona made when asked for the umpteenth time about Youkilis being the Greek god of walks – “I’ve seen him in the showers and he’s not the Greek god of anything.”

While that was a joke, it had some truth in it.  At every level of baseball people kept underestimating Youkilis because he just didn’t look like a professional baseball player.  At various times he was described by scouts as “pudgy” or “thick bodied”.  Boston sportswriter Jackie McMullen once wrote of him, “He does not look like an MVP candidate; more a refrigerator repairman, a butcher, the man selling hammers behind the counter at the True Value hardware store.”

What he could do, though, was play baseball with more grit and determination than any three other men put together.  He had an incredible eye for the strike zone (hence all the walks).  His first year in minor league baseball he had an insane .512 on-base percentage (OBP), which meant he reached base more than half the times he went to the plate.

The book Moneyball was published before he even reached the major leagues, yet he had made such an impression on people who believed in the value of OBP that the author took time to discuss him in the book.  Youkilis made it to the majors the next year (2004) and was a role player on the first Boston Red Sox team to win the World Series since 1918.  In 2005 he made it to the majors for good and became the starting third baseman for the team.

When the Red Sox acquired another third baseman in a trade, Youkilis was asked to move over to first base.  Not only did he have no trouble adjusting, his hard work resulted in him not making one single error at first base the entire 2007 season – in more than 1,000 chances.  He won the Gold Glove as the best defensive first baseman.  That year the Red Sox won their second World Series championship of his tenure.  In the American League Championship Series all Youkilis did was bat .500, have on OBP of .576, have a slugging percentage of .929, and have a combined on-base plus slugging (OPS) of an unheard of 1.505.

The next season Youkilis continued his errorless streak at first base until he set a new major league record of 238 consecutive games without an error, in 2,002 chances (also a major league record).  In addition, he finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting.  His teammate Dustin Pedroia won the award, but a case could be made that Youkilis was at least as deserving.  He hit .312 (.390 OBP), 29 homers, and 115 RBIs.  Pedroia hit .326 (.376 OBP), 7 homers, and 83 RBIs.  Pedroia had a lot more total hits and stolen bases, while Youkilis had a much higher slugging percentage and total extra-base hits.

In 2009 he had even better stats, while at the same time moving among first base, third base, and even left field.  Unfortunately this resulted in Youkilis being ineligible for the Gold Glove award even though he had the same fielding percentage at first base (.998) as the league leader and had a better fielding percentage at third base (.974) than the league leader (.971).

While all of these things were great, it wasn’t the stats that made him a fan favorite among Boston Red Sox fans.  Even though he was a millionaire many times over, and even though he had won two World Series, he still played every season, every game, every at bat, every time running the bases, every time fielding the ball, as if the entire championship was on the line.  As his Manager Bobby Valentine said yesterday, Youkilis never left the field with a clean uniform.

Why am I writing all of this?  Yesterday Kevin Youkilis played his last game for the Boston Red Sox.  After hitting an RBI triple in his last at bat, he was removed from the game to a standing ovation from the entire crowd at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox.  People knew this was the last time they were going to see their beloved player in a Red Sox uniform.  Shortly after the game it was announced he had been traded to the Chicago White Sox.

Here is a video with highlights of his last game, including the crowd’s reaction when he gets taken out of the game.  By the way, those aren’t boos you are hearing; they are “Youk”s.

It’s a bittersweet moment for Red Sox fans, of which I am one.  My head tells me it makes sense, but my heart wanted to see Youkilis play his entire career with the Red Sox.  Time marches on, though.  His style of playing hard all the time has a drawback, which is that it sometimes leads to injuries.  Just as Youkilis first came up to the majors to play in place of an injured third baseman, so too did he get injured this year and a phenomenal young player come up to play in place of him.  Will Middlebrooks has hit the cover off the ball, and if he continues the way he has been, he will be a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.  With third base needing to be given to this player, and with a great player on a long term contract already at first base, there’s no position left for Youkilis to move to in order to stay with the team. 

Not being able to play full time has prevented Youkilis from getting into a hitting groove since coming back from his injury.  Even though I don’t want to see him go, I’m glad that he will be able to play full time for the team he is going to.  If there are any Chicago White Sox fans who read my blog, you are getting a heck of a player.  Carlton Fisk was a beloved player in Boston who went to the White Sox and became well-liked there, too.  I believe Youkilis will do the same.

In case you feel that this post does not have enough to do with movies, then how’s this:  In addition to being discussed in Moneyball, Kevin Youkilis appeared in the 1994 Melanie Griffith film Milk Money and had one line of dialogue.  Hmmm.  “Milk Money”. “Moneyball”.  I’m beginning to notice a connection.

As you saw, the title of this post comes from the chant fans make when Youkilis does something good, which is quite often.  When he was coming off the field for the last time yesterday, these chants were deafening.  Goodbye Kevin Youkilis.  You will be missed.


  1. Ditto this isn't a comment about your post... just wanted to say thanks for sharing the info re: Too Early Too Late. I've got almost all of it now. And again, thanks for the wiki! It's tremendously useful!!!!

    1. Thanks. I'm glad it's appreciated.

      I admit I was a little surprised to see you commenting on this post since I thought I had picked up somewhere along the way that you lived in New York state.

      I actually lost a Follower after making this post. He or she must have been a diehard Yankees fan.

    2. I live in upstate NY NOW. Born and raised in New England. I come from a long line of Red Sox fans. So I have no problem with this post!

  2. Nice post Chip, One of my favorite sox players and always a gamer. Was sad to see him go. On the plus side for him, at least now he gets to play everyday and see regular at bats. Gonna miss you YOUK :-(

    When are you going to write up a piece about the departure of Bobby Jenks ;-)

  3. Thanks. I'm also glad to see him doing well now that he's getting regular playing time with the White Sox.

    "When are you going to write up a piece about the departure of Bobby Jenks?"

    It's coming right after the one on Julio Lugo.