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Color By Numbers: Rivalry Reversals

Youk a Yank? Why not? (Photo: Getty Images)

Will there be a serenade of “Yoooouk” or a cascade of “boos” when Kevin Youkilis makes his Yankee Stadium debut in pinstripes? Judging by the initial response to the trade, the reaction might be somewhat mixed, especially with the Red Sox in town for Opening Day. Considering Youkilis’ infamous past as a Yankee killer, even those willing to welcome him into fold might still be susceptible to a flashback, particularly if they imbibed a little too much before the game.

In the 112 year history of both organization, 219 players have appeared in at least one game for both the Yankees and the Red Sox. However, Youkilis migration to the Bronx isn’t a run of the mill rivalry crossover. With a bWAR of 29.5 while in Boston, the former All Star ranks 20th on the Red Sox all-time list for hitters. So, when Youkilis steps into the box on Opening Day, many in the crowd will likely do a double take, and not just because the third baseman will be without his signature facial hair.

Red Sox Standouts Who Became Yankees

Just missed: Duffy Lewis, who compiled 19.8 WAR with the Red Sox from 1910 to 1917, played for the Yankees from 1919 to 1920. Bill Monbouquette, who compiled 19.8 WAR with the Red Sox from 1958 to 1965, played for the Yankees from 1967 to 1968.

Note: Includes players who compiled 20 WAR or more with the Red Sox before joining the Yankees. Babe Ruth’s WAR includes totals as a pitcher and position player.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

By joining the Yankees, Youkilis becomes only the fifth Red Sox player to don the pinstripes after compiling at least 20 WAR in Boston. Babe Ruth was the first person to crossover, and since the Bambino helped build the Yankees into the most successful franchise in sports, the flow of talent between the two teams has usually benefited the Bronx Bombers. Although it would be almost 60 years before another Red Sox legend made his way to the Bronx, the two recent transfers since Luis Tiant’s short stint with the Yankees in 1979-1980 also had a major impact.

Like Youkilis, Wade Boggs was a mid-30s third baseman when he joined the Yankees after having a down year. However, Boggs rejuvenated his career in pinstripes, batting over .300 in four of five seasons to go along with an OPS+ of 112. Soon after Boggs departed the Bronx, Roger Clemens joined the Yankees. After the 1996 season, the Red Sox had also given up on the Rocket, claiming he was in the twilight of his career, but instead Clemens responded with two Cy Young seasons in Toronto. Following his stint with the Blue Jays, Clemens spent five years in pinstripes tormenting his former team by not only winning two World Series rings, but adding another Cy Young while on the “downside”.

Yankees Standouts Who Became Red Sox

Just missed: David Cone, who compiled 19.1 WAR with the Yankees from 1995 t0 2000, played for the Red Sox in 2001.

Note: Includes players who compiled 20 WAR or more with the Yankees before joining the Red Sox.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Red Sox have actually had more 20-plus WAR Yankees join their ranks than vice versa, but the contributions of those players were relatively insignificant. On offense, Ben Chapman, Elston Howard, and Rickey Henderson were all former All Stars in pinstripes who wound up playing for the Red Sox, but neither made much of an impact in Boston. Among pitchers, Jack Chesbro made his Hall of Fame bones with the Yankees, but ended his career by pitching six innings for the Red Sox. Herb Pennock, who actually had an undistinguished start to his career with the Athletics and Red Sox, was another successful pinstriped hurler who pitched his last season in Boston. Finally, Ray Caldwell cobbled together a competent 12 years with the Yankees, but also found his way to Boston before retiring as a Cleveland Indian.

Even if Yankee fans don’t warm up to him at first, Youkilis can still win their affection by making a contribution in line with the other former Red Sox who wound up wearing the pinstripes. Of course, if he struggles in the Bronx, the denizens of Yankee Stadium won’t hesitate to voice their displeasure. In that regard, however, Youkilis does have one distinct advantage. Even if the crowd showers him with “boos”, he can always pretend their singing his last name.

Categories:  1: Featured  Baseball  Baseball Musings  Hot Stove  Yankees

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1 ms october   ~  Dec 13, 2012 9:44 am

ah ugly.
put me on the list of people that had him high on the list of red sox i didn't like.
i didn't dislike boggs or clemens or damon.

other than the fact that i don't like him, and especially don't like that hideous stance, i just don't think he has much left.
i thought cashman was looking for big hairy monsters which he defined as strong left-handed hitters.
what the hell is youk going to do with the big left field in ys.
hope i'm wrong because this team needs production, but don't see it from ugly.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 13, 2012 10:57 am

Richard Sandomir has a piece on Youk's Jewish roots in the Times today:


3 rbj   ~  Dec 13, 2012 11:10 am

Meh. I don't mind Youk joining the Yankees. Baseball is a business, you take a job where you can get it. And if you have a need at a certain position, you take whom you can get.

The thing that worries me is that the Yankees couldn't fill a temporary job from in house. No one at AAA or AA who could handle it for three months?

4 William Juliano   ~  Dec 13, 2012 11:51 am

[3] The Yankees have a paucity of major league ready prospects, but even so, very few teams have players ready to fill in at an above average major league level.

I am more than just OK with Youkilis. I've been pining for him since he was released, not only because I think it fills a big need for the Yanks (a RH bat that can play the corners), but the same qualities that made me hate him Boston I admire in players from every other team. I am not sure how it will play in the clubhouse, or if it will translate on the field, but I get a certain level of comfort watching players who seem to burn at failure as much as I do.

5 Ben   ~  Dec 13, 2012 12:47 pm

3. Signing Youk tells me this is more than a 3 month stop-gap. I don't think the org has high hopes for Alex contributing at third this year, perhaps even for years after.

6 Greg G   ~  Dec 13, 2012 1:17 pm

I think Valentine might have believed or been told that Youklis was the source of the "chicken and beer" comment and was one of the reasons that he took Youk to task, knowing that he was unpopular in the clubhouse.

Ironically, the players and Pedroia showed Valentine that he was less popular by publicly admonishing his comments about Youk. Mostly that he aired it to the media instead of behind closed doors.

I don't think it was cool of whoever made the comments to the media about the clubhouse culture, and I suspect it was upper management, that did it to make a stronger case of ridding themselves of Theo. The fact that the Indians were trying to get Youk with Theo as manager makes me suspect Youk wasn't behind the leak.

I strongly feel that Youk, like most veteran players will enjoy being a Yankee. They are professional (ARod scoring digits aside) and go about their business of playing to win.

It would not surprise me if like Ichiro, Youk has a resurgence. Consider the circumstances of his playing on a bunch of teams for the past few years not making the playoffs and goofing around.

Certainly Youk is being overpaid to be with the Yanks, but he might be just what they need. Get back to the strength of working counts and making the starter throw a lot of pitches.

I am not a Youk fan by any means, but he might be the right guy at the right time. Not likeable like Ferocious Brosius, but let's give him a chance.

7 Ben   ~  Dec 13, 2012 2:16 pm

Greg G! I like your point of view.

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