Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis has kept a diary for ESPNBoston.com all season. In his final installment, he talks football, why he didn't tell anyone about the Manny apology, whether it will be first or third base next season for him, which of the young guys has impressed him and what he thinks about this injury-shortened season. -- As told to Louise K. Cornetta
Let's get to the important issues ...The Mac and Youk Fantasy Football Team is doing great. I have a team with Darnell McDonald. Big win in Week 1 for us. We got Aaron Rodgers, so that was a good pick. But I was excited we picked Matt Forte [Bears RB] and he played well. I was excited to get him because I thought he was going to have a good year.
Week 1 in the NFL, the Patriots and Bengals played. Everyone knows I am a Bengals fan always. No other team for me. It was a bad game and that was unfortunate. The Patriots played well. They looked good on defense. The Bengals kind of turned it up in the second half and were able to throw the ball a little bit better and went downfield. For the Patriots, the secondary is their question mark right now. But their secondary played well enough in the first half to get them ahead that it was hard for the Bengals to get back.
Around here, by now everyone has heard the news Mike Lowell is retiring at the end of the season. For all of us, we had an indication that this was probably his last year. He's had some rough times with some injuries. That hip is such a tough thing for him to deal with. It's not easy for him because he can't play at that high level. As players and athletes, you all want to play at that high level. Then you get to a point where an injury puts you were you can't. It's not as fun. I can't speak for him, but I think he had a great career. He won three World Series, counting the one with the Yankees. He's had a great career and done a lot of great things. He's probably going to be sad that he can't play baseball anymore. Like we always say, there's always a good thing that comes out of retirement and there's always a bad thing. You've just got to take it in strides. Mike will do something down the road in business or something. He might join his brother in finance. He's big into that. He'll probably fish a lot and do good things down the road.
My favorite Mike Lowell memory is when he came back this year. His first at-bat he went deep, that was pretty cool and pretty special. Throw out the obvious where he was the World Series MVP for us in 2007. But I think that was pretty amazing when he went deep in his first at-bat back, that was cool.
You want to know why I didn't tell everyone Manny Ramirez apologized to me? Nobody asked me. I don't just come out and talk to the media anyway. When Manny came here he told the media about the apology. I couldn't tell you what Manny was thinking. He doesn't really talk to the media. Maybe that day he felt like he wanted to tell people something good that he did. Manny is a human being. Sometimes he's in his own world. I had no problems with Manny after the incident happened ever [Ramirez slapped Youkilis in the dugout on June 5, 2008]. The incident happened. We talked about it. It was over and then he apologized for it again this year. I told him, "No worries Manny. We're cool. It's not a big deal. It's water under the bridge." But papers have to sell and websites need to keep running, so people ran with it.
It always seems like big things always happen around me and are written about me for some reason. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I probably don't talk as much as much as everyone else and that's the same thing with Manny. Sometimes if you don't talk to the media as much, you get put out in a different light than usual. I stick to the basics. I don't like to talk about a lot of stuff. I'll just say little things here and there. You'll get what's on my mind and that's it.
Another topic that's been discussed lately is whether I'll be playing first or third next season. You know, I don't care. I just like playing baseball. I'll play first or I'll play third. I just don't like to flip back and forth every other day. But if it's third, I'll play third. I'll prepare myself this offseason to play third base. If it's first, I'll be ready to play first. For me, whatever is going to make this team stronger. If we get a first baseman, if we get a third baseman, it's just how it works. If Adrian Beltre comes back, I'll play first. If he doesn't come back and they have to get somebody that plays first, I'll play third. There are so many different variables. What I tell Theo [Epstein] and I tell Tito is whatever is going to make the team stronger and help win a World Series, I'll play whatever.
The difference between playing first and third is third is a lot more about you have to field the ball cleanly and make a play. First, you can knock the ball down a little bit more. First base is a lot of work too. You have to hold on runners who are shuffling off the base. People always think it's more strenuous to play third, but in my mind, it's more strenuous to play first base because you're holding on runners, going to get cut offs and relays. For me, people always ask, 'Is it going to be hard on your body?' I don't think it's harder on your body to play third. I think it's just as hard at first base because you're always moving around, moving at different angles, and covering the base on throws. Whereas third base, you might get one ball hit to you all game and you don't even move. I love both positions. I'm happy to play wherever. Throw me in, I'm ready to play.
My thumb is good. It's getting strong and I'm able to grip stuff now. The first week of October, I think I should hopefully be able to start implementing baseball activity. Right now we're working on strengthening it. We’re basically going along with how the season is going and not going too crazy. If we get in the playoffs, they'll get me back in shape and hopefully ready to play. Maybe not ready by the first round, but hopefully the second round.
Yes, I can sign autographs now. It was definitely tough with my thumb there for a while. I prefer to sign autographs. If I'm out and about, people like to take a lot of pictures nowadays with their cell phones. If I'm moving around quick, I like to sign the autograph so everyone can get one. That was tough because with my thumb set the way it was I couldn't. People weren't really happy with me that I couldn’t sign autographs. There was one gentleman in particular who was really upset with me. We don't need to talk about it, but he was not happy with me. It was for his son and I tried to explain that it was just a week after I had my surgery. I tried to explain it to him, so I ended up signing an autograph with my left hand. It wasn't really good. I ruined the kid's picture I think, too. I felt bad. I apologize to that child. But people wanted me with my lefthanded signature, it was crazy.
Since I haven't been playing, I've got to spend time with some of the young guys who have been called up. All the young guys have done pretty well here, but I'd have to say Ryan Kalish has been very impressive to watch. I've hung out with him and talked with him a bunch to teach him a little bit about the game both on and off the field to see how things go on. I try to explain to him things whether it be media to off-the-field to situations in the game to the city of Boston. I do it because guys were really good to me when I was a rookie of teaching me how to do everything the right way. I think as players we've kind of lost that touch. Sometimes it's the young guys that have the entitlement more now than in the past. We're pretty good here of having guys that listen and that's a good thing.
Lars Anderson is another one I've talked to a bunch. He's been great to talk to. They're just excited. They're excited to learn and listen. It's great to see these guys come up and want to learn and not think they know everything right away, which happens. We all think we know everything and then all of sudden you get to the major leagues and you're like, "Wow, there's a lot to learn." I was the same way. I though I knew everything about the game and then I learned a lot in my first two years.
Something I'll remember about this season is seeing D'Angelo Ortiz and Little Victor [Martinez] running around this clubhouse every day as well as the other players' children. They have fun and we have fun with them. The kids are great. A lot of guys in this room have families and the kids in here take you away from baseball and also make you remember when you were a child and how much you loved playing baseball. Sometimes that's a good thing to have kids come around and see them happy and having fun and throwing the baseball around. It makes you realize and brings you back that it's special to be in this locker room and be able to play baseball for a living. To do that on a daily basis and seeing those two kids, who might have a chance to make it someday they're so good, is great. It lightens up the mood. So everything's not serious.
I was thinking about this team and the season we've had. I looked at the scoreboard the other day and Toronto has a winning record and they're in fourth place. To see how well we've played with all the stuff [injuries] that's gone on this season I think is the biggest thing. I know the fans and media are not happy we're not in first or second place right now. But where we are with all the stuff that's happened is very impressive. We've had a lot of guys that have stepped up and done a great job. I'm just very proud of all the guys who have stepped in and done so great and won ballgames. This team could have folded and could have gone in a whole different direction. But instead, this team stayed in there until the end. If we don't make the playoffs, it's definitely a disappointment. It's no excuse because of injuries, but to be where we are and the record we have is great. I'm just proud of all the guys that worked so hard. That's it for me this season with the diary, I'm out.