Ken Williams was smiling Sunday afternoon. The White Sox general manager seemed revved up, if not totally revived, by the Kevin Youkilis trade.
Maybe it was just the idea of making a deal after spending weeks crying poor attendance. Deals, after all, are Williams’ oxygen, but he seemed to need life-support during the Cubs series. Fans weren’t showing up, meaning he would get no allowance from the Chairman. I wanted to take up a collection to let Williams at least buy a mop-up man from Oakland or a fifth outfielder from Houston.
But there was Williams on Sunday, alive and energized after making the Youkilis trade. Williams viewed this deal as a message to the fans and players in the Sox clubhouse that the team is trying to win. The players responded that they saw management making a big move.
Big move? Sorry, but how can trading Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge and having having Red Sox pay most of Youkilis’ salary to get rid of a failing player be a big move? It’s more like a mercy date.
Maybe a couple years ago it would’ve been a big move, but look, trading a minor-league pitcher and a bench player and paying almost nothing for it does not constitute a big move. This is more like buying a lottery ticket. Williams is gambling that he will get lucky with an old guy who’s looking older still because of a bad back and having a bad year to match. Whatever Youkilis has done before does not seem to matter this year, especially this month.
Youkilis started the year badly, got into a tiff with his new manager, did nothing to prove his new manager wrong, went on the disabled list with a bad back and joins the Sox with zero homers, two RBIs and a .200 batting average in June.
For a little perspective, that’s one fewer homer than Orlando Hudson, the man he’s replacing. That’s barely one RBI more than Eduardo Escobar, who wasn’t afraid to get the biggest hit in Sunday’s win over Milwaukee. And that’s a batting average that matches Philip Humber’s.
Williams has sold Youkilis as an “on-base percentage guy,’’ which, again, was true before this season. Youkilis has an OBP of .310 in June and just .315 for the season.
Williams smiled as he described the “edge’’ that Youkilis will bring and said the new third baseman wants to prove people wrong. Maybe it’s me, but one man’s “edge’’ might just be another fading player’s bitterness.
And if people want to blame Youkilis’ bad year on new Boston manager Bobby Valentine’s comments early in spring training, then how mentally strong is the guy the Sox are starting at third base tonight?
The Sox want to think this deal could be a steal. I hope they’re right. It just doesn’t look like it or feel like it. This looks and feels like the latest objet d’AARP in Williams’ collection of over-the-hill players he always coveted when they were good somewhere else, Junior Griffey, but unfortunately, Manny Ramirez, they just never seem to work out here, pick an Alomar.