Youkilis makes his first return to Fenway: will there be friendly exchanges for Youkilis and Valentine?
The Boston Red Sox are set to start their series with the Chicago White Sox Monday night and many will be anticipating the return of former Red Sox first and third baseman Kevin Youkilis. After being traded from the Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox in June of 2012, there may be some cheers and may be some boos, but many fans will be interested to see how the unfriendly relations between Youkilis and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine play out.
An April comment made by Valentine seemed to lay blame on Youkilis for many of the Red Sox on- and off-field troubles. In his April comment on Youkilis, Valentine suggested that Youkilis may not have been as committed to team as he once had been.
In an April interview with Channel 7, Valentine said, “I don’t think [Youkilis is] as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”
The stabbing comments undoubtedly caused some awkwardness and hard feelings between coach and player. However when both were asked about the comment recently, the tension between their relationship seems to have been just pushed aside rather than solved. In a pregame press conference Sunday, Valentine revealed the consequences of the comment:
” I think the comment that I made early, he made a big issue out of and I don’t think he ever wanted to get over it,” Valentine said Sunday.
Youkilis’s tenure in Boston was lengthy. He had been a Red Sox from May of 2004 until he was traded to the White Sox in June of 2012. In the 2012 season, Youkilis played in 42 games for the Red Sox before being traded. During these 42 games Youkilis hit .233 and collected 14 RBIs. This was below his typical standard, and he did not show any signs of becoming a more productive player with the Red Sox.
Since being traded to the White Sox, however, Youkilis has a .316 batting average and 15 RBIs. In the 15 games he has played in as a White Sox, the Chicago coaching staff has no reason but to be pleased with Youkilis’s performance.
It seems as though the move from Boston to Chicago has sparked new energy in Youkilis and his play has been picking up. It is possible this spark has come from the change in coaching staff and absence of tension and hard feelings between Youkilis and old coach Valentine. The stab Valentine threw at Youkilis may have added some insult to injury after knowing the reason for his being traded was to bring in younger Will Middlebrooks to replace him at third base.
However, the true damage of Valentine’s comment in April may never be known, and it is up to the fans at Fenway this week to determine how they will remember Youkilis as a Red Sox.