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Soup of This Day #201: Don’t Ever Argue With The Big Dog

June 26, 2012

Kevin Youkilis
Euclis, The Greek God of Walks liked to form his own Greek chorus, mostly working scrappy dramas – Photo: PhreddieH3, 2008. PhreddieH3 is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

There’s this scene I like in the 1993 flick, The Fugitive.

Actually I like a lot of scenes in that film, particularly those that are stolen by Tommy Lee Jones’ Supervising Deputy Marshall Sam Gerrard.

‘When I die, I wanna come back just like you,’ says his offsider, the diminutive Deputy Marshall Cosmo Renfro, played by Joe Pantoliano.

Me too – I want to be the big dog.

Partly for Gerrard’s cool and calculated insouciance, perfectly captured in that bit where he confronts Harrison Ford’s Richard Kimble atop a towering dam.

‘I didn’t kill my wife,’ pleads Kimble.

‘I don’t care,’ fires back Gerrard.

And he doesn’t. Tommy Lee Jones has given those 3 words so much feeling, so much care (ironically) that you truly believe that at that moment Sam Gerrard really doesn’t care.

Oh how I’ve longed to replicate that delivery in everyday life – Picture this:

A photocopier salesman rocks up to the office door and throws offer after offer at Longworth72. Who says he’s not interested – Does not need a new photocopier – Has no budget for a new photocopier. None of that matters though to the salesman – It’s like punching water. Throw him a cold closer and he’s back right at you with another feature, another benefit.

Until he gets the Sam Gerrard treatment.

‘I don’t care.’

There’s a flash of light and a swirl of smoke. From within the conflagration emanates a keening sound, rising into a banshee like a scream that suddenly cuts off. All that is left then is a wisp of smoke and a faint suggestion of burnt toner residue.

Sigh.

As much as I love that scene it’s not the 1 I have in mind this day. Nope, that honour goes to a spot fairly late in the film. In pursuit of Kimble, Gerrard and his team end up at the house of an ex-cop called Sykes, a guy that Kimble believes killed his wife.

And who pleads innocence and confusion as to why Kimble would be fixated on him – He postulates that it’s because he’s got only 1 arm – Since Kimble asserts that a seemingly mythical 1-armed man had framed him for the murder of his beloved, then Kimble must just be chasing coincidental phantoms to bolster his defence.

It’s a nice theory but Sykes is postulating to the wrong guys.

Partly because Deputy Sam Gerrard does not care – It’s amazing that people don’t get that right off the bat. Maybe they figure his not caring for apathy. Which it isn’t. Gerrard just cares about the stuff that is relevant to what he needs to do. And this particular 1-armed guy is relevant, which is the other part to why Sykes is talking it out to the wrong folk:

‘Cosmo, this guy’s dirty,’ says Gerrard as they leave the house.

‘Yes Sam, yeah he is,’ says Renfro.

See, they know. I don’t mean know as in they have evidence – I mean know as in deep down in their escapee-huntin’ souls they have Sykes bang to rights. Really that conversation was just Gerrard and Renfro thinking out loud, simpatico style.

That scene came to mind just a couple of days ago when I read a headline from a Boston Globe article:

‘In with the new: Will Middlebrooks is Red Sox third baseman.’

Yes Nick Cafardo, yeah he is.

Just like for Gerrard and Renfro we didn’t actually need to say that out aloud. We all knew. For sure, we had some pretty hard facts to back that up – Will Middlebrooks had hit at .331 through his 1st 40 games of 2012 with 9 home runs and a staggering 33 RBIs. Those numbers are frankly ridiculous and you cannot sit a guy down if he’s putting them up. You just can’t, not even if you’re as mercurial and down-right eccentric as Bobby Valentine.

By contrast the incumbent 3rd baseman Kevin Youkilis just had history backing him up. And it was an increasingly ancient and ornery history to boot.

Don’t get me wrong here – That history is something to behold. Across 8 and 1/4 years with the Red Sox Kevin Youkilis picked up 2 World Series rings – To be fair he was on the periphery as Boston won it all in 2004 but he was a major player in 2007 when they repeated the dose. He hit .288 across that triumphant season and was a Golden Glove 1st baseman – Both noteworthy contributions but it was in the postseason that year that he stepped it up a notch – On the biggest stage in baseball, the guy, whose chunky physique led many to write him off, hit .326 with 16 hits, including 4 home runs and 10 RBIs.

And yes, the man who was dubbed The Greek God of Walks in Moneyball also racked up 9 walks, netting him a combined On-Base-Percentage (OBP) of .510. His Slugging Percentage (SLG) was .694, garnering Youk an On Base + Slugging Percentage (OPS) of 1.204.

Those are big numbers and they capture Youk’s effort, the way he throws himself headlong into everything, putting it all out there for his team. Often this intensity has been taken as a negative by the opposition – Youkilis has never backed down, never compromised and pretty much invited the flak that comes with such commitment. The Greek God of Walks has drawn an inordinate number of those strolls to 1st from being hit, plunked by opposing pitchers who must have figured him for a guy with a target on his back.

And on his shoulders. And on his hands. And on his head. Pretty much all over him really – Across 8 and 1/4 years with the Sox, in 953 games, Kevin Youkilis has been plunked 86 times. Compare that with David Ortiz, Boston’s designated hitter. Big Papi has logged 1814 games across 16 years with the Minnesota Twins and the Red Sox. He’s been plunked just 32 times.

I’m not saying that Youk is more valuable to the Red Sox than Big Papi. Just that the former’s contribution is arrived at via a more visceral assault on the game. It’s kind of like the difference between Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones – The 1st is smooth and classy, smacking out big hits with ease. The other is rough and tough-as-teak, grinding out winners through sheer presence.

That though is where the comparison to Samuel Gerrard ends for Kevin Youkilis.

For while the man is still the man, face fixed in a snarl as he trots round the bases, the body is no longer handling the punishment as well. Youk missed 60 games in 2010 and 42 in 2011. In 2011 the batting average dropped to just .258. For this season it has sunk further, plumbing .233. And that is just the batting – The 3rd base work is not as crisp or as sure-footed as a couple of seasons ago and 1st base is not an option – Golden Glove Adrian Gonzalez has that spot nailed down.

So we all knew that Will Middlebrooks had graduated from the understudy role – He now has some big boots to fill. He’s made a good start but he’s got 8 and 1/4 years to catch up on. Not that there’s any pressure. Just a Nation watching his every move…

But I reckon he’ll do ok – There may even be a touch of Sam Gerrard about this kid – His take on the whole deal:

‘I don’t care. I really don’t. I’m here to play baseball. I’m not here to be an analyst. I’ll let you do your jobs and I’ll do mine.’

Hmmmm, now that I read that a 2nd time it’s not so convincing – Sam Gerrard would not have needed the ‘I really don’t’ affirmation. So if Kevin Youkilis and Will Middlebrooks are not the Sam Gerrard in this then who might be?

Ben Cherington.

The Sox GM took a difficult situation and made the only play he could have. Youk’s time was done and Middlebrooks needs to be playing day in and day out. So Cherington made the trade, sending Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox. He made it quick and he made it cold, like Gerrard muscling in on an escaped prisoner hunt. There was no other clean way to farewell a legend who had given the Red Sox so much.

In the end it was a move made with calculated insouciance – Youkilis was in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Braves (24th June) – He was actually due up in the 7th when the paperwork was being signed. He went out to bat and nailed a fortunate triple that he hardly had time to celebrate. Nick Punto subbed in to run for him and Kevin Youkilis jogged off to a standing ovation. When he disappeared into the dugout he was summoned out 1 more time by Bobby V to take a last curtain call. When that brief interlude was done he headed back in and up the passage to the clubhouse. By the time he got there his locker nameplate was gone – Sam Gerrard had made his collar.

I’ll miss Youk and wish him every success in Chicago. But I don’t think ill of the trade – It’s Cherington’s call – See, let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls. Don’t ever argue with the big dog, because the big dog is always right.

Woo-woo-woo-woof.

Don’t Ever Argue With The Big Dog

2 Comments
  1. Youk will be missed big-time in Boston…but it certainly is the White Sox’s gain if he can regenerate himself in Chicago. I found it hysterical President Obama made an attempt to show a Boston crowd gratitude for his beloved Pale Hose getting Youk with that trade still “raw,” prompting many at HIS rally to boo HIM. Time heals…but Obama’s timing was lousy. Here’s hoping both the Red and White Sox ultimately benefit from this transaction.

    • Yeah saw the President’s comments and the reaction. A bit of a gaff on his part – Politics and sport are a dangerous combo – If you have a team you’re always going to annoy another section of the community. Still the White Sox got a good deal on this – Hopefully Youk can see some more postseason action in Chicago colours while the Red Sox faithful give Middlebrooks the time and space to own his new role.

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