Kevin Youkilis was traded to the Chicago White Sox earlier this week after months of speculation and trade rumors. With the emergence of Will Middlebrooks at third base, Youkilis had become expendable—with his contract expiring after this season, trading him was the only logical move.
It was a sad end to what had been a great career with the Red Sox. In his nine seasons in Boston, Youk won two World Series championships, a Gold Glove, made the All-Star team three times and finished in the top six in MVP voting twice. He now leaves DH David Ortiz as the only member of the Sox who played on the team when they won the 2004 World Series.
The 2004 side was an unusual one. It was made up of players who together became greater than the sum of their parts.
Three years earlier, Ortiz was batting .234 with the Minnesota Twins. In 2002, Bill Mueller was traded from the Cubs to the Giants and went 2-for-13. Orlando Cabrera and Dave Roberts were midseason rentals. More than a third of their games were started by 37-year-old pitchers.
Of course, there was a lot of talent there. Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling were (and in the case of Papi, still are) amongst the game's elite, while Jason Varitek, Bill Mueller, Tim Wakefield and Keith Foulke were all very good players.
But the reason that team gelled so well, and was so popular, was the attitudes and personalities of all the players.
Kevin Millar was one of the catalysts of Boston's comeback against the New York Yankees in the ALCS, with the Sox players famously drinking Jack Daniels before the games. Trot Nixon and Johnny Damon were always laying out for balls in the outfield or running into the wall to make catches. Pedro was entertaining both on and off the field. Manny was Manny.
This was a group of players who weren't afraid of getting their uniforms dirty. This was a team with personality.
Until this weekend, the only players from this team still in Boston were Youkilis and Ortiz, and it shows. The 2012 incarnation of the Boston Red Sox aren't well liked—any quick glance at a comment thread or article will tell you that—and they just don't have the personalities on the side any more.
Gone is the, shall we say, quirky Jonathan Papelbon, and now the Sox's closer is the far less exciting Alfredo Aceves. Cody Ross is similar to Nixon in some ways, but it's hard to see fellow outfielder Carl Crawford doing anything entertaining.
Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter—though he isn't showing it this year—but he's hardly an enthralling character.
Sure, there are some players for whom you can cheer. Dustin Pedroia is the heart of this team, and Big Papi is still as lovable as ever, though, even he has been prone to rants—most recently with his tirade about how it's not fun playing in Boston. But by and large, this is a team that just feels cold.
Kevin Youkilis always played his heart out, he lost his temper sometimes and he had a funny batting stance. He was the kind of player you could root for, whom you enjoyed watching. The 2012 squad is—dare I say—dull.
Winning is the only cure for a boring, broken baseball team, and the Sox are struggling to do that.
Adam MacDonald is a Scottish journalism student at GCU and has been a featured columnist for the Boston Red Sox since October 2010. You can follow him on Twitter or tell him how awesome/terrible this article was by clicking here.