December 5, 2012

Would Yankees fans ‘YOUK’?

Alex Rodriguez’s impending hip surgery leaves a hole for the Yankees at third base and aging captain Derek Jeter, who is rehabbing from ankle surgery these days, increases the need for defense on the left side of the infield to even more dire levels.

The Yankees must switch their search from a big bat or young arm to an adept glove, and that was reportedly Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s mission* before the A-Rod surgery announcement on Monday.

*Disclosure: This linked news article is from the New York Daily News, my current employer. But this blog entry represents my opinion, not necessarily that of my employer.

But one factor Cashman must be conscious of as he pursues a talented infielder that is often overlooked is team chemistry. 

This player must be able to earn the respect of the Yankees’ superstar-studded infield. But even more importantly: this player must be able to earn the respect of the fans.

One player who doesn’t fit that mold has been connected with the Yankees over the past few days. It's Kevin Youkilis.

Yes, the same Youkilis who Yankees pitchers have targeted bean balls at over the last decade -- many of which at his head.

The importance of team chemistry can’t be ignored. Need proof that poor team chemistry can hinder a team’s success? Look no further than the Red Sox teams of the last two years. 

As a producer at during those two seasons, it was no secret that off-the-field and clubhouse problems negatively impacted the team. Boston finished 69-93 last year. Major injuries didn't help them either, but even the beleaguered Sox were talented enough to finish better than last place. But they didn't because the clubhouse was divided.

Even Beantown's beloved Youk was jettisoned to the White Sox midseason.

Let me be clear: a former Red Sox player can succeed and even be a good fit in Pinstripes. I know that’s true, and so do you. Fans have seen it with Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Johnny Damon and a handful of others.

But Youkilis is different, even though talent-wise he seems like a perfect fit. He wields a tremendous glove and works tough at-bats more consistently than anyone in baseball recently.

The latest report says the Yankees are unlikely to pony up the dough for even a one-year deal for the 33-year-old. But my point still stands: team chemistry should not be overlooked when making business decisions for a sports team.

I couldn't imagine Yankees fans ever chanting “YOUK” anyway. Could you? Would you?

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