We kind of knew it was coming, but now both sides have reportedly confirmed it: Kevin Youkilis is set to sign a one-year, $12 million deal with the New York Yankees. Youk was a member of the Red Sox the first eight-and-a-half seasons of his career, traded in his red socks for white ones (get it?) in the latter half of 2012, and has now signed with the Yankees.
Loyalties and allegiances aside, this is a logical baseball move for the Yankees. They need a full-time replacement at third base until Alex Rodriguez returns sometime midseason, and someone to relieve him in the field when Joe Girardi puts him and his hips at DH. Of course, tempers and emotions run amok when a player so well known as a Yankee or a Red Sox plays for the sworn enemy, but baseball players will do what they do. Why fans still get surprised when athletes pick paychecks over allegiances is befuddling — these things happen and they will continue to happen.
Youk was not the first to jump ship from Boston to New York, and certainly won’t be the last. Here are a few historical notables.
Damon was the flagship member of the 2004 world champion “idiots” and man did he look like one, too. He embodied the Red Sox team that broke the 86-year championship drought, and everything that Boston was and New York wasn’t — scrappy, dirty, hairy, not contributing to his team’s awful collapse in the ALCS, etc. It was Damon who hit two home runs in Game 7 of that ALCS, including a grand slam, that capped off his then-team’s historic comeback, en route to a World Series.
Much to your probable surprise, Damon spent only four seasons in Boston, but his time there was so crucial to the Sox’s championship effort, that it was hard to imagine him donning any other uniform. So when he signed with the Yankees in 2005, it must have felt like a huge cock slap right to the Fab Jesus faces of Red Sox fans. He also went directly from the Red Sox to the Yankees via free agency, which is as slow as you can possibly yank that band-aid off.
So Damon shaved his beard, cut his hair, took a pay raise and played four good years in the Bronx, capped by another championship season in 2009 — his last in New York. Though he spent four seasons in each locale, that grizzly, unshaven look will surely be the Damon that will endure.
The Rocket played in Boston for the first 13 years of his career, where he appeared in one World Series, won four ERA titles, three Cy Youngs, and one MVP. He finally departed from Boston for Toronto after the 1996 season at the ripe old age of 33, and after a Cy Young in both seasons he spent in Canada, he was traded to the Yankees for Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and David Wells after the ’98 season at 35 years old. What we knew about baseball logic then dictated his best days should have been behind him once he donned pinstripes, but one Cy Young, two World Series rings, a hurled broken bat at Mike Piazza’s head, and five years later, Clemens’ career had caught a second wind* after he came to New York.
*-steroids. It was steroids.
As for whether Clemens will be remembered as a Red Sox or a Yankee, there are two schools of thought: His best individual years were on the Red Sox, where he became the great pitcher he was without performance-enhancing drugs. But his most notorious years, plus two titles, were in New York. Although, he spent eight more years in Beantown than he did in the Big Apple. That’s gotta count for something.
Another staple of the Red Sox of the 1980s, Boggs spent the first 11 seasons of his career, from 1982-92, with Boston. He won the major league batting title five out of six years from ’83-88, appeared in one World Series, and was an eight-time All-Star. After the ’92 season, Boggs figured he’d had enough losing — like most Red Sox players eventually did — and jumped ship to the one place where he thought the losing would end, the New York Yankees.
At least give Johnny Damon credit where Boggs and Clemens deserve none. Damon stuck it out until he won a ship, embarrassing the Yankees in the process, before going on George Steinbrenner’s payroll. Boggs and Clemens couldn’t even do that. Lucky for Boggs, he did get that elusive ring in 1996, including making three All-Star teams in his time in New York. He finished his career with the young Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he would cross the 3,000-hit barrier. Boggs was a force in the 80s, and despite his success in New York, he is unequivocally a Red Sox. He’s in the Hall of Fame as one, anyway.
In 1919, Babe Ruth (still a part-time pitcher) was bought by the New York Yankees from the Boston Red Sox for $100,000, and the rest is history. Ruth’s departure from Sox Nation is the most notorious of the bunch, naturally because it may or may not have led to 86 years of terrible, horrible baseball and made Fenway Park a Fortress of Suckitude matched only by Wrigley Field, which remains as such to this day.
The Yankees converted him to full-time hitter, because they weren’t dumb like the Red Sox and he went on to lead the Yankees to the most prosperous stretch the franchise has ever known, becoming arguably the best hitter in the game in the process. George Herman Ruth? Yankee.
History will judge Youkilis when his time comes, but for now, his conversion to Yankee fatigues is nothing more than a smart, sound addition by New York.