McAdam: Youkilis defined by sweat he gave


McAdam: Youkilis defined by sweat he gave

For many, the lasting image of Kevin Youkilis in a Red Sox uniform will be one of his sweating profusely, almost comically so.

And, in a way, that's entirely fitting. Physiological issues aside, Youkilis's extreme perspiration stood for something: the hard work it required for the infielder to become the player he was.

It's easy to think that any player who reaches the major leagues as supremely talented -- better, faster and stronger than the others who failed to reach the game's highest level. And, of course, major leaguers are blessed with a certain innate ability. They possess quickness, flexibility, and hand-eye coordination that most of us can only dream about.

But within the pool of professional players, only a fraction are good enough to get to the majors. Moreover, only the best of the best are capable of nine-year (and counting) playing careers.

For many, their first introduction to Youkilis was Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's obsession with him in Michael Lewis's best-seller, Moneyball. Beane infamously dubbed Youkilis "the Greek god of walks,'' for Youkilis's ability to get on base.

The nickname rankled Youkilis, who was neither Greek, nor happy about being defined cheifly for his ability to get bases on balls. Years later, Terry Francona playfully ribbed Youkilis about the nickname, observing: "I've seen him in the shower -- he's not the Greek god of anything.''

But Youkilis made himself much more than an on-base machine. In addition to his stellar .388 on-base percentage, Youkilis learned to drive the ball, and in the process, he became a slugger and run produer. From 2008 through 2010, Youkilis posted a slugging percentage of .548 or better and averaged 97 RBI, transforming himself from a player who managed to get on base to one who could do real damage in the middle of a powerful Red Sox lineup.

That transformation came from rigorous off-season work at Athlete's Performance Institute in Arizona and countless swings in the cage -- his feet positioned unnaturally close, his bat wiggling impatiently.

It came, in other words, from hard work.

An hour after he traded him to the Chicago White Sox Sunday Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington chose to remember Youkilis Sunday as someone who was transformed from "a good player to an All-Star through sheer force of will and hard work,'' and that's as good a description of Youkilis as could be imagined.

Even Bobby Valentine, whose public zinging of Youkilis created a firestorm in the first 10 days of the season, saluted Youklilis, praising "his work ethic, his dedication, (and) his ability on the field. He never came off the field with a clean uniform and he always gave everything he had.''

That applies to the defensive side of the game, too. Drafted and developed as a third baseman, Youkilis improved himself in the field, and after becoming a plus defender, moved across the diamond in 2006 when the Sox obtained veteran third baseman Mike Lowell. Youkilis took to first like a natural and earned a Gold Glove while setting an American League record for most consecutive chances at first base without an error.

Then, when the Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez a year ago, Youkilis again returned to third.

His departure leaves David Ortiz as the lone player who was part of the 2004 championship team, and as Nick Punto, perhaps Youkilis's best friend on the team noted Sunday, Youkilis is one of a handful of people who can say he was a two-time World Series winner with the Red Sox.

"We did a lot of winning during (Youkilis's) time,'' said Cherington. "On an individual level, I think his legacy is (that of) a passionate player who played every inning hard. He did a lot of good things for this organization for the bulk of the time here, really embodied a lot of things that we really believe in.''

Starting with good, old-fashioned hard work, represented by the beads of sweat that not only covered him at times, but came to embody him, too.

Cubs reach first World Series since 1945


Cubs reach first World Series since 1945

CHICAGO -- Cursed by a Billy Goat, bedeviled by Bartman and crushed by decades of disappointment, the Chicago Cubs are at long last headed back to the World Series.

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Clayton KershawAnthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras homered early and the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 Saturday night in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

The drought ended when closer Aroldis Chapman got Yasiel Puig to ground into a double play, setting off a wild celebration inside Wrigley Field, outside the ballpark and all over the city.

Seeking their first crown since 1908, manager Joe Maddon's team opens the World Series at Cleveland on Tuesday night. The Indians haven't won it all since 1948 - Cleveland and Cubs have the two longest title waits in the majors.

"This city deserves it so much," Rizzo said. "We got four more big ones to go, but we're going to enjoy this. We're going to the World Series. I can't even believe that."

All-everything Javier Baez and pitcher Jon Lester shared the NLCS MVP. Baez hit .318, drove in five runs and made several sharp plays at second base. Lester, a former World Series champion in Boston, was 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

Deemed World Series favorites since opening day, the Cubs topped the majors with 103 wins to win the NL Central, then beat the Giants and Dodgers in the playoffs.

The Cubs overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Dodgers and won their 17th pennant. They had not earned a World Series trip since winning a doubleheader opener 4-3 at Pittsburgh on Sept. 29, 1945, to clinch the pennant on the next-to-last day of the season.

The eternal "wait till next year" is over. No more dwelling on a history of failure - the future is now.

"We're too young. We don't care about it," star slugger Kris Bryant said. "We don't look into it. This is a new team, this is a completely different time of our lives. We're enjoying it and our work's just getting started."

Hendricks pitched two-hit ball for 7 1/3 innings. Chapman took over and closed with hitless relief, then threw both arms in the air as he was mobbed by teammates and coaches.

The crowd joined in, chanting and serenading their team.

"Chicago!" shouted popular backup catcher David Ross.

The Cubs shook off back-to-back shutout losses earlier in this series by pounding the Dodgers for 23 runs to win the final three games.

And they were in no way overwhelmed by the moment on Saturday, putting aside previous frustration.

In 1945, the Billy Goat Curse supposedly began when a tavern owner wasn't allowed to bring his goat to Wrigley. In 2003, the Cubs lost the final three games of the NLCS to Florida, punctuated with a Game 6 defeat when fan Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball.

Even as recently as 2012, the Cubs lost 101 times.

This time, no such ill luck.

Bryant had an RBI single and scored in a two-run first. Dexter Fowler added two hits, drove in a run and scored one.

Contreras led off the fourth with a homer. Rizzo continued his resurgence with a solo drive in the fifth.

That was plenty for Hendricks, the major league ERA leader.

Hendricks left to a standing ovation after Josh Reddick singled with one out in the eighth. The only other hit Hendricks allowed was a single by Andrew Toles on the game's first pitch.

Kershaw, dominant in Game 2 shutout, gave up five runs and seven hits before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth. He fell to 4-7 in the postseason.

The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series since winning in 1988.

Pitching on five days' rest, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner threw 30 pitches in the first. Fowler led off with a double, and Bryant's single had the crowd shaking the 102-year-old ballpark.

They had more to cheer when left fielder Andrew Toles dropped Rizzo's fly, putting runners on second and third, and Ben Zobrist made it 2-0 a sacrifice fly.

The Cubs added a run in the second when Addison Russell doubled to deep left and scored on a two-out single by Fowler.


Maddon benched slumping right fielder Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.

"Kershaw's pitching, so I wanted to get one more right-handed bat in the lineup, and also with Albert I don't feel like we're losing anything on defense," Maddon said. "I know Jason's a Gold Glover, but I think Albert, given an opportunity to play often enough would be considered a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder, too."

Heyward was 2 for 28 in the playoffs - 1 for 16 in the NLCS.


Kerry Wood, wearing a Ron Santo jersey, threw out the first pitch and actor Jim Belushi delivered the "Play Ball!" call before the game. Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder and actor John Cusack were also in attendance. And Bulls great Scottie Pippen led the seventh-inning stretch.