2007 was Kevin’s second full year with Red Sox. In 2007 he had 16 homers and 83 RBI’s, but what really stood out was his defense. In the regular season he had 0 errors- a 1.000 fielding percentage. Kevin earned his second World Series ring with the Sox, and the hardware didn’t stop there. That same year he also got a Gold Glove: “It’s quite an accomplishment. To have a great year and to win a Gold Glove means so much to me. It’s definitely a boost in the confidence level, knowing this award is the highest award you can get for fielding. I’m so proud for playing defense for all the pitchers and the other guys across the diamond.” Not only does Kevin hit for power and have a great glove, but in 2007 he also started having long at-bat’s.
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Youkilis enters his at-bats looking for a heater to hammer, and up until two strikes, if he doesn’t get the pitch he wants in the place he wants it, he doesn’t swing. It’s as simple as that. And he wants to see as many pitches as possible. “First at-bat, first pitch, I’m taking,” he says. Youkilis is trying to get a feel for the pitcher’s delivery, his velocity, how much movement is on the fastball, the lighting in the park, his own balance.
Overall this season, he’s taken the first pitch in 91.3% of his at-bats. Whether it’s a ball or a strike, Youkilis will continue to look for fastballs, continue to bear down and discipline himself to swing only at pitches that are in his hitting zone. Advance scouts say that he is exceptional at making adjustments, at understanding how pitchers are trying to get him out. But Youkilis doesn’t try to think along with the pitcher during an at-bat. “Some guys are good at guessing what’s coming” he says. “Kevin Millar, he could say, ‘Hey, with a 1-0 count, this guy is going to try to throw me a backdoor slider.’ I can’t do that.”
Instead, Youkilis looks fastball until he’s in a hole. “Then I use my hands a little more,” he says. “I shorten up my swing a little bit.” This gives him even more time to react. Through June, Youkilis was hitting .305 on two-strike counts, more than 100 points better than the league average. Says an AL general manager: “Some hitters panic when the count reaches two strikes, because they don’t feel equipped to deal with the pitcher’s out-pitch, whether it’s a good breaking ball or a changeup. But Youkilis is not afraid to hit with two strikes.”
So his at-bats tend to drag on, as he takes pitches and fouls them off in bunches. He averages more than 4.1 pitches per plate appearance, among the league leaders. He knows his long ABs will frustrate the guy on the mound, because he has listened to Red Sox pitchers come back to the dugout griping after opposing hitters have done the same thing. “There is nothing better than when you have a 10-pitch at-bat and then get a hit,” he says.
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So many long at-bats meant a lot of walks, and so many walks earned him the nickname The Greek God of Walks.
In 2008 Kevin had another great year of long at bats. He had 29 home runs and 115 Ribbies. On On April 2, 2008, he broke the Major League record for most consecutive error-less games by a first baseman. In 2008 he was also close to being awarded M.V.P. Although he was in the M.V.P hunt he didn’t think he deserved it. ”I don’t think I’m the M.V.P.” Youkilis said. Personally I think his spiritless attitude about getting M.V.P. hurt his chances. He finished sixth in balloting for the 2009 AL M.V.P.
In 2009, Youkilis was 2nd in the American League in OBP .413 and OPS .961, 4th in hit by pitch 16, 5th in slugging percentage, and batted .305 overall and .362 with runners in scoring position. Those are some of the most ridonculous stats I have ever seen “He has skills, man,” said David Ortiz “I don’t know how he do it. He just do it.” A highlight for Kevin in 2009 was when Youkilis was picked to be a reserve player on the American League All-Star team by Tampa Bay and AL manager Joe Maddon, after coming in second in the vote to Mark Teixeira. During his time at the at the All Star game he got to meet Barack Obama.
With all of Kevin Youkilis’ fame and success, he has also experienced many tragedies. He has had multiple friends die from suicide. In 2009 another tragic death effected him. Youkilis’s friend, Greg Montalbano, died suddenly of testicular cancer. Youk played his next game in his friend’s memory. After inscribing “GM” in marker on his cap, he hit two homers in the game against the Yankees, while driving in six runs. Both times as he crossed home plate, he looked up and pointed to the sky. “That was for him,” Youkilis said. “There are some crazy things that have happened in my life. You … feel like there’s somebody out there somewhere pushing balls out for you, and doing great things.”
Here is a interview of Kevin after he hit to home runs dedicated to Greg Montalbano. (You will see the GM on his hat.)
I have become much more optimistic about the Boston Red Sox chances in 2010 than I was before Spring Training. The Sox Pitching proved to me that we have a shot at the World Series. I underestimated John Lackey, and I thought David Ortiz was done etc., but looking back at spring training every single player that I doubted played well. If you think about the Sox starting rotation, we have Lackey and Beckett and Lester–all all-star quality. Wakefield is Wakefield. The only pitchers I’m worried about are Dice-K and Clay Buchholtz. Buchholtz has proved inconsistent, and Matsuzaka has never met our expectations. Dice-K barely even pitched last year; he had four wins and six losses with an ERA. of 5.76. Still, both Buchholtz and Dice-K could put it all together this year, and each has the potential to be spectacular. On defense, we’re solid. Offense is unproven and has me a little concerned. Without Jason Bay, we have a gap in our lineup. But there are also no major weak spots in our balance lineup. And, if all this run prevention stuff does work out, we don’t need as much offence. In short, I predict the Sox will win 95 games in 2010 and go to the World Series to win it all! Go Sox!
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The Red Sox and Josh Beckett are just now closing in on a deal. It is 4 years for $70 million dollars. Josh’s extension would be in addition to the $12 million he is to make in 2010, giving him five years left at almost exactly the same pay as, Red Sox Pitcher, John Lackey, who signed as a free agent with Boston for $82.5 million over five years.
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.”
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.