New York Yankees infielder Youkilis takes batting practice during a workout at the team's MLB spring training complex at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida.

Youk As Yank: Just kind of weird

85 Comments

Hey, it’s my first post on Hardball Talk. Very exciting. I still cannot believe that Calcaterra and Gleeman didn’t save the “Jeff Francoeur is in the best shape of his life” post for me.

Kevin Youkilis plays for the New York Yankees now. I’m not typing those words as a fact. I’m typing those words to remind myself — kind of like that guy in Memento, who would tattoo integral facts on his body because he had no short term memory. Every few seconds, it seems, I forget all about Youkilis, and then some story or Tweet will cross my consciousness, and I’ll think, “Wait, what, Kevin Youkilis plays for the Yenkees now?”

I’m not quite sure why the Youkilis thing throws me.* I feel like I’ve largely grown numb to the temperamental and capricious ways of sports free agency. It really didn’t take me too long to get used to Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform or Albert Pujols in an Angels uniform or even LeBron James in a Miami uniform. Josh Hamilton as an Angel? Got it down already.

*What Youkilis thing? Let me read back … wait, what, Kevin Youkilis plays for the Yankees now?

So this Youk as Yank thing shouldn’t be that hard to get used to. If we all could get used to Michael Jordan in a Washington uniform and Jerry Rice in a Raiders uniform and Greg Maddux in a Dodgers uniform and, heck, Wade Boggs in a Yankees uniform, there seem no real boundaries left. But for some crazy reason, Youkilis in a Yankees uniform just doesn’t quite compute for me. It isn’t that I have any personal connection to Youkilis. It isn’t that I could only see him in a Red Sox uniform — heck, I didn’t see any real incongruity when he played for the White Sox last year.

But for some reason Kevin Youkilis playing for the Yankees — wait, what, Kevin Youkilis plays for the Yankees now? — just triggers that cable TV “recording conflict” fiber in my brain.

It has me thinking about the most incongruous unharmonious players and uniforms in sports history. Here are 10 of them.

— John Unitas playing for the San Diego Chargers. This is probably the most famous clash between player and uniform — Unitas in 1973 played for the Chargers. He was 40 years old. He started four games completed 44.7% of his passes, threw seven interceptions against three touchdown passes. It was a sad ending, but in another way it wasn’t. He went out on his own terms. Anyway, endings are supposed to be sad.

— Wayne Gretzky playing for the St. Louis Blues. Gretzky playing for the New York Rangers was strange enough. But for 18 games, he played for the Blues and that’s just weird.

— Babe Ruth playing for the Boston Braves. He hit .181 in 28 games as a publicity stunt. He did hit six home runs in 92 at-bats — so he was still on pace to hit hit 40 home runs over a full season. But he did not hit a double or triple, he was just an old ballplayer swinging for the fences and trying to give the fans one more thrill.

— Rickey Henderson playing for the Seattle Mariners. I know Rickey played for nine different clubs in his astounding career — and that doesn’t even include the Independent League teams — so it seems silly to say that you could not imagine Rickey in a certain uniform. But Rickey’s brief Seattle sojourn completely skipped my memory.

— Emmitt Smith with the Arizona Cardinals. He was there for two seasons, and a big deal was made about it, but I never really got used to it.

— Tony Dorsett with the Denver Broncos. That was just strange … he wasn’t bad for the Broncos. He ran for 703 yards in fairly limited play and scored five touchdowns. It was still strange.

— Karl Malone with the Los Angeles Lakers. Remember that little experiment intended to get the Mailman his championship ring? He was 40, he played in 42 games, and he scored 13 or so a game. The Lakers reached the finals, but lost to Detroit in five.

— Patrick Ewing with the Orlando Magic. Ugh.

— Bill Russell with the San Diego Rockets. I was shocked to find out that … no, I’m kidding, this never happened.

— Pete Rose with the Montreal Expos. He got his 4,000th hit with the Expos, so you can still see photographs of Rose in an Expos uniform. He will sign these photographs, if you like. It still doesn’t look right.

— Reggie Jackson with the Oakland A’s. Like with Rickey, it’s pretty easy to imagine Jackson in just about any uniform. But the Jackson-Oakland combination doesn’t really make much sense to my mind. (Editor’s note: I meant to say “Reggie Jackson with the Baltimore Orioles,” here, but for some reason got Oakland stuck in my head. Regular readers know: I do that sometimes. I guess Reggie Jackson with Baltimore seems SO weird to me I couldn’t even type the words).

Report: Marlins will retire Jose Fernandez’s No. 16

MIAMI , FL - SEPTEMBER 09:  Pitcher Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Marlin Park on September 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images
2 Comments

The entire Marlins roster will wear the number 16 on the backs of their uniforms in remembrance of pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident on Sunday morning. After that? “No one will wear No. 16 for the Marlins again,” team owner Jeffrey Loria said on Monday evening, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times reports.

Though Fernandez only pitched parts of four seasons for the Marlins, he already ranks fifth in career WAR in club history, according to Baseball Reference. He also owns the best career winning percentage as well as the second-lowest single-season ERA (2.19 in 2013) and the second-lowest single-season WHIP (0.979 in 2013). Fernandez was already one of the best pitchers in Marlins history and was on his way to becoming a perennial All-Star, if not a Hall of Famer.

Then add to that his outstanding personality and what he meant both to the Marlins organization and to the city of Miami. Loria has gotten a lot of criticism over the years, but he nailed it with this decision.

Report: Majestic workers stayed up all night making No. 16 jerseys for the Marlins

MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 05:  Jose Fernandez #16 of the Miami Marlins looks on during 2016 Opening Day against the Detroit Tigers  at Marlins Park on April 5, 2016 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
7 Comments

As Craig mentioned earlier, the Marlins will all wear No. 16 jerseys to honor pitcher Jose Fernandez, who tragically died in a boating accident on Sunday morning. It’s a fitting tribute as the Marlins return to the playing field after Sunday’s game was cancelled.

We don’t often hear about the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on during these special circumstances. As Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports, workers at the Majestic manufacturing facility in Easton, PA — about two hours north of Philadelphia — stayed up all night Sunday night into Monday morning in order to make those custom No. 16 jerseys for the Marlins. They were shipped via air so they would arrive in time for the game tonight.

FanGraphs writer Eric Longenhagen notes how hard those Majestic employees work — often for low pay :

Kudos to Majestic for making a concerted effort to help the Marlins out in their time of need.