Sports fans have no shortage of viewing choices in the lean months of winter. The NFL is racing towards play-offs, the college football bowl games all follow the holidays, and NBA basketball is going strong. As much as I enjoy running the family football pool and waiting each morning for Blake Griffin highlights, none of it fills the void left by baseball. Sure, 162 games can take up the better part of the calendar year; but these cold, dark months without baseball are a hard slog. So when free agency begins and the powers convene, I pay close attention. This year, my friends, I am not happy.
Earlier this month, my friend Alex Rodriguez announced that he would have hip surgery during the off-season, his second such operation in four years. The surgery will keep him off the field for most of the first half of the coming 2013 Yankee season. You can imagine my disappointment.
I was willing to let it go, wish my favorite Yankee well in his recovery, and take solace in the fact that Davey Wright will still be on the hot corner in Queens for years to come. But then…then I started hearing rumors. Vicious rumors. Hateful, vile rumors. Rumors about how Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, planned to fill A-Rod’s spot. Rumors that said that a certain former Red Sox player, the one and only Kevin Youkilis, would be signed to play third based in the Bronx. And then, in a true sign of the impending Mayan apocalypse, those rumors were confirmed. My initial, gut reaction was perhaps a bit over the top (jump to 0:23):
But on further reflection, and with the aid of statistical research, it seems my Laura Roslin rantings were not unfounded. In the 2012 season, Youkilis played 30 more games than A-Rod, but had a much lower batting average. Alex’s 40 stints as DH don’t offer much evidence of statistical inflation, as that change in the roster only accorded him 25 more at-bats than Youkilis had. For argument’s sake, that’s really only about six game’s worth of plate appearances. The two had almost the same number of RBIs and homers (point, A-Rod), but almost the same number of strike-outs, as well (point, Youkilis). A-Rod had the stronger on-base and slugging percentages, though. In the field, Youkilis had put-outs in roughly half his starts, while Alex was making outs almost three-quarters of the time. However, Youkilis had far more assists, and Alex managed to make almost as many errors as Youkilis in much less game time.
What my amateur analysis here shows is not that Alex had a great year, but that Youkilis’s was not much better. That’s where my frustration as a Yankee fan comes from. If they want to replace Alex for the first half, fine; but why do it with someone who only exceeds his abilities in a few, very limited ways? Even more puzzling, why do it with someone who is only three years younger who has his own history of injuries? This is another sign of the Yankees’ endemic aversion to taking chances with new talent. They keep letting Andy Pettitte back in the clubhouse every time he gets bored sitting home in Texas. I hear they’ve painted a mobility scooter in pinstripes so Mariano Rivera can make it from the bullpen to the mound in style. This is a career pitcher who ruined his throwing arm shagging fly balls at batting practice! Do any of the Steinbrenners know a sign from the gods when they see one? So now that Alex is showing his age, why isn’t the job being handed to Eduardo Nunez, age 25, who had a better batting average than Alex and made six outs and twelve assists in the nine games he spent at third last year? Why is Ramiro Pena, a utility infielder ten years Alex’s junior who had a great 2011 season, not even securely on the Yankee roster?
Finally, on a much more visceral level, how in the great wide fucking world do Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners expect me, a loyal and vocal Yankee fan, to root for Kevin Fucking Youkilis, poster hick of the Red Sox and the embodiment of sloppy, white trash Boston fandom? And how dare they hire him to replace my boy! The Yankees are the clean-cut matinée idols of Major League Baseball. The Red Sox, since the time of Manny Ramirez, look about as hygienic as your average TLC reality show family. Nowhere is this difference more obvious than it is now at third base. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez is genetic Dominican perfection. Kevin Youkilis looks like he should be driving a garbage truck.
But there is no greater aesthetic crime than when Kevin Youkilis steps to the plate. High holy fuck, you guys, Kevin Youkilis has the most ridiculous batting stance in the history of baseball! I refuse to believe that any hitting coach has ever actually sanctioned this stance. I stopped playing baseball when I was 11, and even I can tell you that everything about this is wrong, wrong, wrong.
He probably flied out on that hit, too.
The haters can crow all they want. “A-Rod’s a prima donna,” “He doesn’t have his head in the game,” “He choked in the post-season.” Yes, he did; but unlike Kevin Youkilis, Alex has been to the post-season every year since 2009. Coincidentally, that was the last time Kevin Youkilis ever reached the play-offs.
So Mr. Cashman, Hal and Hank, Joe Girardi, and yes, you, Kevin Youkilis–I ask that you listen closely. I will accept this trade on one condition: before the first day of spring training, I get to shave off Kevin Youkilis’s beard. And I get to do it with half of a rusty pair of scissors that I find in an abandoned Hoboken warehouse. Blindfolded.