Greek Godspeed, Kevin Youkilis

Sometimes we don’t like things that are good for us. Vitamins, vaccines, prostate exams, you know the drill.

Thus it is with Youks leaving for Chicago.

It’s probably good for us. Youks is increasingly looking old. He’s not hitting. Worse, for a man who always got on base everywhere he went, he’s not getting on base. His OPS is below .700 and his OBP is .315.

Middlebrooks is younger, healthier, and probably better.

And yet, Youks was one of us. He was ours. We’ve heard about him since he showed up to Lowell and put up an OBP of .512 while walking on average more than once a game.

And he’s one of the 25.  He may have had just two plate appearances in the 2004 post season but he played seventy games at third to help get there.

There are eight players still alive who have twice won the World Series with the Red Sox. Kevin Youkilis is one of them and we love him for it.

Guys I’m Watching–Update

Back in April, I blogged about some guys I’m watching. It’s time for an update.

Will Middlebrooks has been a fixture with the big club for quite a while now. He has played thirty-five games and more than held his own. It is conceivable that he is going to be sent down when–if–anyone is healthy but I rather doubt it. With Youkilis looking like–and more importantly, playing like–an old man, I think the Middlebrooks era is here to stay.

Jose Iglesias is on the disabled list and has been for three weeks. The question for him has been offense, and he has shown some strides there, putting up a .634 OPS so far this season, an improvement of 80 points over last year. It’s still pretty crappy, though. Still, there are encouraging signs. His walk rate is higher and his strikeout rate is lower. He has played forty-two games, 22 of them in April and 20 of them in May. In April he could do nothing right. He struck out sixteen times, walked eight, hit only one extra base hit, and put up an OPS of .485. In May his OPS was .790, hitting four extra base hits, including his first home run, and striking out only five times. Is that a real breakthrough or small sample size noise? We don’t know. And we won’t know until he can get back on the field. Still, there’s room to hope.

Ryan Lavarnway was reportedly told to make a special point to work on his defense this year. I have a hard time believing that because I would have assumed he’d been making a special point of working on his defense for most of the past three years. Whatever the cause, he started off the season relatively poorly before coming on a bit lately to push his OPS above .800. One wonders how much of his future is tied up in the body of David Ortiz. It seems like Lavarnway’s best role in the majors would be as a part time catcher, part time DH, and part time bat-off-the bench. As long as the Sox have David Ortiz at DH and Adrian Gonzalez at first base there is no room for DH at bats which means Lavarnway is either going to be a full time catcher or a minor league player. Sure, the Sox could let Ortiz go but with the likelihood that Youkilis is gone, that seems terribly unlikely.

Ryan Kalish returned from injury and had a successful rehab assignment culminating in a nine game stint at Pawtucket where he absolutely clobbered the ball. He came up to the majors just recently when Ryan Sweeney went on the DL and became the thirteenth outfielder used by the Sox this season. That doesn’t include Carl Crawford. I think he’s here to stay. It’s put-up-or-shut-up time in his career. He has now spent parts (if small ones) of three seasons at Pawtucket. The Sox outfield routinely has Adrian Gonzalez in it and that is not a good thing. Here’s his opportunity.