The contradiction that is Kevin Youkilis

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Usually when a guy is described as a gritty, intense gamer, you can count on him being (a) universally loved by his teammates; and (b) not that good a player, actually (see, Eckstein, David). Kevin Youkilis, on the other hand, is the rarest of things: a gritty, MVP-quality player who, surprising to me at least, has some teammates who aren’t real fans.

This last bit of info comes in the course of an excellent profile of Youk in the Boston Globe.  We all know he’s an outstanding player who plays hard so I’ll skip the MVP and grit talk and focus on the unexpected bit:

So why, then, is this Everyman not unequivocally embraced and revered by his teammates? Why, when a reporter approaches another key Red Sox player to speak about Youkilis does he respond, “I’d rather refrain”? . . . “At one point some of the veterans came up to me and said, ‘Can you talk to this guy?’ ” manager Terry Francona said.

This isn’t a gossip piece, though, and Globe writer Jackie MacMullan does a great job of explaining the reasons why Youkilis, though seemingly universally respected, often rubs his teammates the wrong way.  To his credit, Youkilis doesn’t back away from any of it, explaining his dustup with Manny Ramirez a few years ago and trying his best to make the reader understand the unique circumstances of a guy who, while not as gifted as your typical superstar, has nonetheless managed to become one.

And that seems to be the nub of the problem, such as it is: Youkilis doesn’t fit neatly into that gifted/hard worker dichotomy with which most of us — and most ballplayers, in all likelihood — are familiar.  They probably tolerate lesser players beating up trash cans more than stars, because the lesser players aren’t expected to lead and set the tone like stars are.  Youk is an uncomfortable mix of the two and thus problems are likely to arise.

I’ll admit that I’m no Sox fan, and I can pretty much take or leave Youk, but this article casts a new enough light on both him and the team that I’ll be watching tonight’s Sox-Angels game with a bit more interest than I might have otherwise.

Marlins granted permission to interview Larry Bowa

Larry Bowa
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The Miami Marlins, despite not having technically fired Dan Jennings, are actively interviewing for a new manager. Their latest target is a familiar name: Larry Bowa.

Jim Salisbury of reports on the coaching staff shakeup with the Phillies and, in the course of it, notes that the Marlins have asked and have been granted permission to interview Bowa, who is currently the Phillies’ bench coach. He has been offered a contract for 2016 by the Phillies, but he has never made a secret of his desire to manage again and has interviewed a few times over the years. Bowa, of course, managed the Padres in 1987 and 1988 and managed the Phillies from 2001 into the 2004 season.

As recently as a year ago it seemed unlikely that Bowa would get another look for a top job anyplace, what with baseball’s seeming eschewing of the crusty and feisty old managerial types in favor of young, inexperienced managers who had just recently retired from playing. But given how poorly that’s gone for most clubs — the Marlins included with Mike Redmond — this could be a winter in which we see a bunch of those old salty types returning.

Champagne after a loss? Why not?

Astros Wild Card

There was some hockey person last week arguing about how it was silly or untoward for baseball teams to celebrate clinching wild cards or other, less-than-championship-level accomplishments. Calling it bush league or lacking in act-like-you’ve-been-thereness or what have you. I can only imagine what he’d say about the Astros celebrating with champagne following (a) winning a wild card; and (b) losing the game which immediately preceded the celebration.

But screw him. Seriously.

I used to think that way. Indeed, if you search the HBT archives I’m sure there’s a post or two in which I disapprove of teams engaging in multiple champagne celebrations. But I was wrong about that and I’ve changed my mind on the matter over the past year or too. And on some other matters as well, all for the same reason: athletes are people just like us, not some avatars for our machismo and our fantasies. They’re people who have spent their entire lives devoted to their calling and do it under a lot of pressure and in the face of a lot of criticism and expectations from others. Why on Earth would anyone deny them their happiness upon the realization of an accomplishment?

This is even more true if you’re one of those misguided souls who erroneously believe that sports actually is separate from real life and believe them to be supremely and impossibly important. Even if you’re right — and you’re not — wouldn’t that give the athletes an even greater incentive to celebrate accomplishments? Funny how those people who who act as if sports is life and death would deny athletes their joy for defying death, as it were.

My view on the matter now is that if a guy hits a homer he should be able to celebrate it. If a pitcher strikes a guy out, he should be able to celebrate it. If a team makes the playoffs, no matter how low their seed and no matter the manner in which the accomplishment is achieved short of their competitors going down in a plane crash, they should be able to celebrate if they so choose.

So enjoy your hangovers this morning, Houston Astros.