The Saga of Youk and Joba at Yankees Camp
THE SWEET SMELL OF RIVALRY
Spring is in the air. There’s no holding it back now, not with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry already heating up, even before the Red Sox get involved. Kevin Youkilis found the perfect way to endear himself to his new fans in the Bronx when he reported for his first spring training camp with the Yankees yesterday. “I’ll always be a Red Sock”, Youkilis proclaimed in his first session with the always eager for tabloid fodder New York media. “To say you negate all the years I played for the Boston Red Sox and all the tradition”, said Youkilis, “And you look at all the stuff I have piled up in my house, to say I just throw it out the window is not true.” Among Youk’s souvenirs from his days with the Red Sox are more than a few bruises on his backside from being knocked down by Yankee reliever Joba Chamberlain and bad blood has simmered between the two ever since, with harsh words passing between them. They’re teammates now and, while Chamberlain’s first gesture in Youkilis’ direction following his signing with the Yankees didn’t draw an immediate response, and there have been no reports of a face to face summitt meeting yet, Youkilis says they’ve been texting and it’s behind them. “It’s something you guys write about”, he told the Yankee press corps, before standing in for his first batting practice, familiar ‘bat high’ stance intact, “That’s drama you guys are creating. All the drama we’ll create this year is with walk off homers and hits.” Some drama will never go away for the Yankees this year. Every day Youkilis plays third base for the Yanks is likely to be another day Alex Rodriquez is away from the team. It’s questionable whether A-Rod will play at all this season and every day he’s away leads to even more speculation than when he’s present and, by his presence, is writing headlines that are juxtaposed from media translations of every word he utters. That’s the kind of media environment Youkilis is walking into, but it’s not like he’s a kid who’s never been to the circus before. He lived through the greatest collapse in baseball history as “Chicken and Beer-gate” unraveled in Boston and he watched as Terry Francona was unceremoniously dismissed after delivering the Red Sox only two World Series titles of the past century, only to be replaced by a manage with whom Youk had no chemistry, leading to a steady decline for the one time all star first and third baseman. Youkilis has already proven two things in his career, he can exist and produce in any pressure cooker and he’s one of the most hated of all opponents, hated by pitchers he frustrates with pesky at bats, taking and fouling off enough pitches with each at bat to send hurlers to the showers on his pitch counts alone, hated by position players trying to maintain their composure and concentration through those at bats. If he brings those qualities to the Yankees and doesn’t try to be Alex Rodriquez, which he says he won’t, only the pinstripes will look different. Of course, the final test will be that first at bat in Boston, where even such favorites as Johnny Damon have been treated to the wrath of the faithful after journeying to the Bronx. What better way to start a baseball season than with a built in Yankee-Red Sox controversy? That sweet smell you detect on that warm breeze is spring. It’s in the air. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.