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Color By Numbers: Rivalry Reversals

Posted By William Juliano On December 13, 2012 @ 9:29 am In 1: Featured,Baseball,Baseball Musings,Hot Stove,Yankees | Comments Disabled

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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 [2], 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

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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
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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.


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[1] Image: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/youk-shurg.jpg

[2] infamous past as a Yankee killer: http://www.captainsblog.info/2012/04/20/a-historical-look-at-the-yankeesred-sox-rivalry-updated/14741/

[3] Image: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Sox-to-Yanks.bmp

[4] Image: http://www.bronxbanterblog.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Yanks-to-Sox.bmp

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