Archive for March, 2010

The Pluses and Minuses of Kevin Youkilis’s Intensity – Part 3

Manny Jumping on Kevin Yoikilis

Manny Ramirez jumping at Kevin Youkilis.

Kevin Youkilis is a very intense person.

He has even been in a fight with his own teammate. Youkilis was mad and threw his helmet after a futile at-bat, when Manny Ramírez made it clear he hated Youk’s tantrum. Curse words were exchanged in the dugout, and Ramírez had to be restrained from jumping on  his teammate. The incident was caught on tape and widely reported.

This is what Kevin had to say about the tiff: “We have two different approaches to the game. Winning and losing isn’t life and death to Manny.” But we all know it is to Youk.  “Every at-bat matters to me and when it doesn’t work out, I need to release some of that negative energy.”  “I’ve tried the other way. For a while, when I made an out I just went and sat down. It doesn’t work for me. I’ve gotten better [at controlling myself], but what can I do? I can’t change who I am.”

On every at-bat Youk comes up thinking there are two outs, bases loaded, in the ninth inning of  Game 7 of the World Series. That often results in a base knock, but if he fails he freaks out and that can cause the Manny effect.

Kevin’s intensity and drive can sometimes tick off his opponents as well as his teammates. Here is what Mike Lowell said in reaction to Youk’s flare-up four years ago “In 2006, I couldn’t understand why he could be 2 for 2, then line out and the world was going to end” . . .

Not everyone on the team is so annoyed by Youk’s outbursts, Dustin Pedroia defends Youk this way: “He plays hard, puts the team in front of himself. I don’t know what else people want.”

Kevin Youkilis being restrained from going after Joba

From opponents, of course, there were more Kevin Youkilis incidents, like the time when Joba Chamberlan threw two straight fastballs at Kevin’s head. “I t was right at my head,” Youkilis  said. After being walked, Kevin had to be restrained from going after Chamberlan. And warnings were issued to both benches. ”If that young man is trying to get our attention, he did a very good job,” said Terry Francona; after all, Chamberlain “has great command until Youk gets in there.”

Joba denied that he was intentionally going after Youkilis (see video).

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On August 11, 2009, the Red Sox were playing the Detroit Tigers. Rick Porcello (the Tiger’s ace) hit Youk in the back with an 89-mph fastball on the first pitch of his at-bat.  This was the second time Youk had been plunked the Tigers pitching staff  in as many games. This time, Youk tried to do something about it: He charged the mound and the benches cleared.

Youk later expressed some regret about charging the mound, saying “For kids out there it’s not the way you should handle it . . . .”

Although Youkilis’s intensity sometime annoys his teammates and opponents and sometimes even leaves him regretful, he would never be the great player he has become were he less intense (see Part 1 of this series)  His quest for unrealistic levels perfection is his source of greatness — by trying to be perfect, he makes himself better.  In that way, Youkilis’s intensity sets a great example for kids.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 4 is here.

Kevin Youkilis’s New Look

If you would like to vote for Kevin Youkilis’s beard this season click on the image below (you will have to pay one dollar that will go to Hits For kids).

Here is a video about Youk shaving off his go-tee.

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Mike Lowell Update: A Frustrating Spring Training

On March 26th, Mike Lowell was hitting in a spring training game against the Jays. He fouled the ball off his leg and collapsed. Immediately the trainers came out of the dugout. They got him back on his feet and into the locker room. At first it looked like a scary injury, but after the game Mike thought that the bruise will only sideline him for a few days. After the game he was asked has this been a difficult spring training. Mike replied with “More frustrating than difficult”.

Batting Stance Guy With Kevin Youkilis

I had a comment that asked “Great post! My question, Ian, is where did Youk develop his unorthodox batting style? Do you know?” So I thought I would share these videos with you.

Part 1

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Watch Part 3, 4 and 5 after the jump

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Kevin Youkilis Part 2 (from the Minors to the Red Sox)

“There were times, it seemed, when the only one who believed [Kevin] Youkilis was a ballplayer was Youkilis himself,” wrote Chaz Scoggins of the Lowell Sun.

Those times are long gone. Indeed, as Theo Epstein pointed out, “statistically, if you consider 2008 and 2009, you could make the case there has been no better player [than Kevin Youkilis] in the league.”

In his best-selling book Moneyball, Michael M. Lewis told the story, of how analyzing baseball statistics rather than relying on traditional measures of performance–such as, a beautiful swing, strong arm, or speed–predicted more accurately the value of a palyer’s contribution to a team.  For example, on-base percentage (including walks) and total bases are more reliable than  a player’s batting average at predicting wins.  Such insights would have dramatic implications for how amateur players are drafted (see videos below).  Players who would have been overlooked in previous generations suddenly seemed more promising when analyzed using those new methods.  Youkilis was such a player.

“Youkilis was a fat third baseman who couldn’t run, throw, or field.”  Still, Paul DePodesta (quoted in Moneyball) argued that [t]he scouts ought to go have a look” at him.  Why?  Because the boy could get on base. Michael Lewis writes:

Inded, three months into his professional career, Youkilis had “the second highest on-base percentage in all of professional baseball, after Barry Bonds. To Paul, he’d become Euclis: the Greek god of walks.)

On May 15, 2004, Youkilis made his MLB debut. Youk was called up from AAA (just ten months from his last AA game), because Bill Mueller (the Red Sox third baseman) was put on the DL.

“It’s been great, a lot of fun,” Youkilis would say after his first start in the bigs. “The part of the situation that is not good is Bill [Mueller]. He is such a great guy and a huge part of this team.”

Youk expected to be in Boston only a fortnight but remained in Boston for six additional weeks because Bill underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. In 11 games, he hit .278 with a on-base percentage of .413. His early success gave him confidence: “I know I’m going to be playing,” Youkilis told reporters matter-of-factly. In April, however, Youkilis found himself on the way back down to Pawtucket, because the team needed to activate Curt Schilling.

Ben Jacobs of The Hard Ball Times asked Youkilis, “Do you see yourself as the future starting third baseman for the Red Sox?”

I hope. They don’t know ever. A big-market team, you never know what’s going to happen. For me, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Hopefully, that’s what’s going to happen some day, but for me, I’ve just got to go out and do what I’ve got to do to get myself better and get myself ready to help that team up there.

That August Bill Mueller was having back spasms in batting practice, so Kevin was called up again.    He was in Pawtucket’s clubhouse getting dressed for a game. Without changing out of the same white pants that he wore for the Pawtucket home games, he packed his car, sped to Boston, dashed  into the Red Sox clubhouse, threw on his jersey and cleats, and went out to take his place on third (not unlike Doug Mirabelli’s famous return to Boston).

The commuting was not over.  Kevin  would return to Pawtucket and play 43 more games in AAA.  Youkilis was asked by Ben Jacobs, “Having been a part of everything that went on last year for the Red Sox, how difficult is it being back in the minor leagues?”  Youk responded:

It’s difficult. There’s one guy that had to go down, go on waivers or whatever, and I was the only one that had options. You never want it to happen, but it happened and now I’ve got to deal with it.

Of course, even in the minors Kevin was gaining fame among baseball fans given his role in Moneyball.

In Part 3, I’ll discuss Kevin’s time as a full-time member of the Red Sox.

Watch the 60 minutes video after the jump.

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Kevin Youkilis “Get Back” Video

This month my theme is Kevin Youkilis. Here is a video I put together.

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Kevin Youkilis – Part 1: Early Life, College, and early Pro Career

Kevin Youkilis was born March 15, 1979, in Cincinnati Ohio. “Kevin was the most enthusiastic player that I can ever remember in three decades of coachng,” Ted Schumacher said. “Yet, he was never the heralded ‘star.’ . . . Kevin was a steady performer but far from sensational. Yet his work ethic and passion were second to none. He simply would never quit.” (Cincinnati Enquirer, Ted Schumacher, October 26, 2007.)

Box– Thu, May 29 10 second clip of Red Sox 1st baseman Kevin Youkilis at age 11 in the 1994 movie Milk Money with Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith. Youkilis is the older kid taking money from the younger kids. . .

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After he graduated from Sycamore High School in 1997, two Division 1 schools recruited him: Butler University and his ultimate choice, the University of Cincinnati. Youk chose Cincinnati over Butler University, because both his father and his long-time idol, Sandy Kofax, had attended UC.

The UC Bearcats had just had a terrible season of 12-46. At a winter camp the Bearcats Manager (Brian Cleary) spotted Youkilis and would later recount his impressions of the young player this way: “I looked at him and said, ‘Well, we need somebody.’ I’d love to tell you I saw something no one else did, but he was just better than what we had.” Indeed he was.  Youk excelled  all four years he played at UC and would become one of the few All-Americans to play as a Bearcat.  “I take no credit,” said Cleary. “He coaches himself. He knows his swing. Any time we said anything to him, he was already a step ahead. He made the adjustments he had to make. I just think he’s a really smart guy who had a great feel for what he had to do.”

Even with Kevin’s collegiate success and unmistakable work ethic, some people never thought he would make it to the bigs.  As Youkilis would recount,  “People told me throughout my college years that, ‘I don’t know. He’s kind of pudgy. He can’t really move around well. I don’t know if he can be a professional athlete.'”  However, Youk’s high school friend and college roommate always believed in him:  “He told me . . . . ‘The day you make it to the major leagues is the day I’ll be there.'”

In June, 2001, Youkilis made his MiLB debut. In that season, Youk walked so much that he tied the Minor League record for reaching base in consecutive games–an amazing string of 71. He got on base so much while he was in the Minor Leagues that his team nicknamed him ‘The Greek Of God of Walks.” Kevin reaches base half of the times he’s up to bat. When Youk was with the Sea Dogs, he walked 86 times in 94 games. Youkilis has such good vision he can  see the last row of the eye-test chart, in fact he  has 10/20 vision.

A coach at the time summarized Youk’s prospects as follows:  “I think he has a chance to play in the big leagues. The test now is to see him at another level.”  “If he’s able to make the adjustment (to Triple-A), I think he has a good chance. He’s been on the right path. If he keeps progressing up the ladder and is able to handle the pitching at each level you’ll see him (in Boston).”

On  May 15, 2004, Kevin Youkilis made his MLB Debut. In his second at-bat, Kevin hit a homer. The Cincinnati Enquirer ran a headline stating: “Youkilis enjoys ‘Pipp’ of a debut,” referring to Wally Pipp, the third baseman that Lou Gehrig replaced. “Any time you to come up in the big leagues, it’s your chance,” Youkilis said. “Hopefully, I’ll take as much as I can from it.” Fans who follow the Sox and non-fans who have often heard the crowd erupt in the now familiar “YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUK!” know that Kevin meant what he said.

Kevin’s promising debut, however, was bittersweet.  His old college friend who had been so supportive years before was not there to celebrate Youk’s transition into the majors.  Tragically, that friend had committed suicide during their sophomore year.  To this day, Kevin has been actively committed to suicide prevention efforts.

Another thing that Youkilis takes with him from his childhood is his taste in music.  He likes Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. “It’s the rap from when I was in high school,” Youkilis explains. “I have a wide variety of music but I still go back to that grunge era – Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam.” When he walks up to the plate at Fenway, you hear, Rick Ross’s “Push It to the Limit” blaring in the loud speakers.

Let’s all hope that Youkilis can succeed again in 2010 at pushing his baseball skills to the limit.

Here is a video called Get To Know Kevin Youkilis

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

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