Photo: Keith Allison- Troy Ballard
Baseball is one of the few sports that allows for fans to become incredibly emotionally attached to players, and those who are privy to the phenomena that is Boston sports will know exactly what I am speaking of.
Most recently, Red Sox fans have had to wave goodbye to one of the few remaining key pieces of the '04 World Series team in Kevin Youkilis.
Youk was not only on a fan favorite in Boston, but was also a leader in the clubhouse for a team that has been bounced by adversity. He was the defacto-of-defacto when representing the grittiness and relentless pursuit of the BoSox.
But in a move that even the most casual baseball fan could read from up and down the east-coast, Youkilis was traded away to the Chicago White Sox (hold the irony jokes off for a few seconds).
The deal involves Boston sending Youkilis and cash considerations (about $5 million) for a utility-man and a pitcher. This was not a move of malice, and it was not to spite Youk. Boston essentially made a trade that benefits all parties equally.
And an equal trade is something that should be treasured, as more often than not, one player ends up getting the shaft. However, Youk is going to an up-start club that is searching for a veteran leader and someone to round-out the top of the lineup. The incredibly versatile infielder should land in Chicago and immediately find himself in a situation that fits his style of play seamlessly.
Boston, much like Youkilis, did well themsleves. Trading away a valuable and strong leader of a team is never easy, but the Red Sox will be a stronger team in the end. Due to a series of reoccurring injuries to Youk, Will Middlebrooks has had a shot in MLB -- and has exploded onto the scene.
The kid is playing like baby Youk. Boston fans are feeling a strong sense of nostalgia, and with his immense success, the Red Sox needed to clear room in the infield. That sense of comfort led to the ultimate choice to make a move to help Youkilis and hand the reigns over to Middlebrooks.
That transition from Youk to Middlebrooks, although it looks great on paper, isn't going to be a smooth transition. It may be smooth in terms of on-field success, but fans at Fenway are going to have to adjust to not hearing Kevin Youkilis blasting through the stadium -- followed by a raucous reaction from the crowd. That's the toughest part.
It's like trading-in that old Cadillac -- still runs great, and has enough memories to last you a lifetime -- for the brand-new Esclade that dazzles with a plethora of new features. Even though it's obvious that the new Esacalde is the better choice, part of you wants to keep that old Caddy around and just kind of.. let her ride it out.
Boston, I'm speaking from experience in the fact that as a fan of another team, having a player like Youk was not only an amazing privilege, but he was also someone an entire a city could rally around. That's rare. It's so uncommon, and that's the type of player that every up-and-comer should strive to be like.
BoSox Nation enjoyed the defacto-of-defacto for nearly a decade, and now it's time to move on and welcome in that new Escalade known as Middlebrooks. It's painful, but as Youk has taught us, the more classy you are, the better you look down the line.
Have fun in Chicago, Youk. Have fun Boston, Middlebrooks has a bright future.
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