David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991. Show More
Kevin Youkilis didn't talk much about his former team before Thursday night's game at Yankee Stadium. During a five-minute interview, he failed to even mention the words "Red Sox" or "Boston."
And when the discussion touched on the circumstances that led to his trade to the White Sox -- that part was brief -- he referred to his Fenway employer as "that other organization."
Not with any great animosity. More in a perfunctory fashion, sort of how Youkilis exited Boston on Sunday. Dealt in the middle of a game, he was pulled for a pinch runner in the seventh, received a huge ovation from the Fenway Park crowd and left without speaking to the media.
That was it. Nine years, two World Series rings, three All-Star appearances, a Gold Glove -- traded for a pair of middling players. It's probably fair to say that Youkilis' days were numbered as soon as new manager Bobby Valentine called him out during a TV interview only two weeks into the season.
The supernova start of rookie Will Middlebrooks rapidly accelerated the process, as did Youkilis' .233 batting average. While teammates rallied to his defense, with Dustin Pedroia taking point-blank shots at the manager, the front office made it clear who was expendable.
Youkilis didn't feel much like revisiting the topic in his first trip to the Bronx wearing different Sox. As for why things unraveled for him so quickly in Boston, Youkilis had no answer. Or maybe he preferred not to share.
"That'd be a question you have to ask the people in that other organization," he said. "I just came up every day and tried to do my job. But I didn't play well out of the gate and that's on me. I got off to a slow start and it went downhill from there."
With Middlebrooks digging in at third and Adrian Gonzalez entrenched at first, Youkilis became the odd man out, which had to be a strange feeling for a fan favorite who hit .287 with a .388 on-base percentage during his Red Sox tenure.
He chalked up his departure to the nature of baseball but smiled when asked if it really can be explained in such simple fashion. "Things are never that simple in this game," Youkilis said. "I'll leave it at that."
And when it comes to Boston, breaking up never goes well. There's no staying friends, and Youkilis has plenty of company among other jilted exes such as Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, Nomar Garciaparra and Johnny Damon, to name a few.
But it's not just the team that Youkilis no longer has any use for. He sounds glad to be free of the whole Red Sox Nation experience, which includes the endlessly overhyped rivalry with the Yankees. The White Sox hardly inspire the same degree of hatred in the Bronx, or the mobilization of media outlets, which is more to Youkilis' liking.
"It's a better thing as a player when you don't have that rivalry with all that hoopla," he said. "Four o'clock game on Saturday, 8 o'clock game on Sunday."
That's a reference to the Fox and ESPN broadcast schedules, not a favorite of players, and the times frequently reserved for many Yankees-Red Sox games.
One of the first things Youkilis mentioned in the visitors' clubhouse was his newfound space without dozens of reporters and TV crews milling about.
"This is actually awesome," Youkilis said. "This is probably a tenth of what usually would be here, so this is actually great."
Changing uniforms, however, did nothing to remove the Red Sox stain he still wears in the eyes of Yankees fans. Before each of Thursday night's at-bats, Youkilis was booed loudly. No matter. Youkilis insists life now is good again, playing for the low-key Robin Ventura rather than the combustible Valentine, regardless of how he got there.
"I'm in a better place mentally in baseball and just enjoying myself," Youkilis said. "That's the best part about it. My wife called me and said, 'You look so happy out there. It's great to see you having fun.' "