Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis checks in with his latest diary for ESPNBoston.com. In this edition, he talks about what he really thinks of the Yankees, the secret to the Red Sox getting more wins, and why it would be OK for a team to hate each other. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
Chemistry on a team is overrated on some ends. As long as you win, you can all hate each other. If guys don't get along, but you play hard on the field and go out and play the game, you can win. The Oakland A's, you hear the stories of how they used to get in fights, but they still won back in the day. I don't think you all have to be one big happy family off the field. On the field, as long as you go out there and play hard and you have good baseball players…I mean if you put all the best baseball players on a team and they all hate each other, they're probably going to win.
Consistency seems to be the word we keep hearing around here. It's easy to become consistent by winning more games. We need to win the close ones, which are some of the ones we're not winning. The season is so young, we're seeing such a small percentage of the season so far. We've got to pitch well and play the defense. If we pitch well and play defense, we'll be more consistent. Pitching wins ballgames. There's a reason why starting pitchers get paid a lot more money than other people. If they go out there and pitch consistently well, they're going to put their team in the best chance to get to the playoffs and win a World Series. Pitching, to me, is the key. You have to have good pitching in order to win.
I've been asked if Red Sox Nation has panicked too fast with us. I think in all the big markets it's just how it works. With big media markets, there's emphasis on winning so much that you almost have to be perfect. It's not just Red Sox Nation. It's New York. It's L.A.. It's all over the place and not fair to say this happens with only Red Sox fans.
All-Star ballots came out. Sure, I'd like to go to another All-Star Game. It's an honor to go every year. They made some rule changes -- like, there will always be a DH now. You definitely need a DH. There's no reason to have pitchers hit. No one wants to go and watch an exhibition game where pitchers are hitting. I'm on the ballot for first base. This year I've settled into just playing first base instead of moving back and forth to third. It doesn't matter to me really. I like playing third. I like playing first. But to know I'm playing one position helps because there's less to worry about and less that's out of my control. The comfort level is a lot easier on my body and mind.
A lot is going on in Boston right now. Bruins and Celtics are still going strong in the playoffs. I haven't been able to watch but I do keep up. Like I know the Bruins lost in overtime Friday night. One more win and they advance on. I definitely am rooting for the both of them.
The Yankees are back already. I want to get into their team a little. With the game on the line the player I'd not want to see up at the plate was Melky Cabrera last year because he had like 10 walk-off hits. This year, I'd say [Robinson] Cano. I think he's one of the best hitters in the game. He's grown to become a really good hitter and, I think, the best on their team. The starting pitcher that is hardest to hit is A.J. Burnett, when he's throwing 97 and his curveball is working. He's one of the tougher ones to face. He's a stuff guy and if his stuff is working, he's probably one of the better ones to face. What makes Mariano Riveria so good still? The movement on his pitches. You've got to stay within yourself. He throws a cutter that moves a lot. He can spot it up really well. I say movement and location is what makes him so good. Since I play first base, I see plenty of guys when they reach base and definitely the most chatty on the Yankees is Swish [Nick Swisher]. Jeter talks a lot to me too. Swish and I have the same agent, as does Brett Gardner. We all know each other from that, but we usually talk about the game. A-Rod is not a fan favorite, but what do I have to say about him? Great player. Probably go down as one of the best players to play the game. When I think about all the Red Sox-Yankees games we played, my least favorite memory is last year -- them beating us pretty bad down the stretch. My most favorite though is beating them in the ALCS in 2004, coming back from three-nothing.
When I think about the 2004 ALCS, I have to think about Dave Roberts’ steal. That steal is and was huge here. One play a guy makes on a team and he'll forever be known for that steal. Probably not too many stolen bases are that known except for his. He must have the most memorable steal in Red Sox history. We just found out this week he has Hodgkin's lymphoma. My heart goes out to him and I've been praying for him all the time that he'll be healthy. When I think of Dave Roberts, I think great guy, great human being, and it's so sad he has to go through it. Hopefully, he will fight through this and everything will be fine down the road and he'll be cancer free. Good things should happen to good people.
Since we're on the subject of former teammates, Nomar [Garciaparra] had a night here last week. It was a good night. It was good for the fans. It was good for Nomar. It was good for the people. It brings a little closure for him being at Fenway Park, because he didn't get to retire here in the uniform as a player. I think it was a little bit of closure for him going out there and having a night. It was good for everybody to see him happy and excited to be here. I'll always remember Nomar for his superstitions. Those were the best to watch. To see every little thing he did just to get out to bat and to go out on the field was pretty fun to watch.