I am a member of an online message board community where Kevin Youkilis sometimes posts. He seems nice enough, if just a tiny bit immature. Usually he just posts updates on what he’s doing…benign things like that. (I’ve belonged to a few message boards where someone famous would post….it’s cool at first and then it becomes tough because I am, by nature, a brutally honest person and it’s tough to be brutally honest when the person you’re talking about is reading what you write.)
This week, someone created a thread wondering what Youk was doing during the off-season and he responded to it. After giving us the lowdown (he’s in Arizona, isn’t focussing too much on "working out" just yet, and is spending a lot of time golfing – most recently with Mark Bellhorn), he felt the need to add that it was a shame that Mark Bellhorn got "booed out of town".
So, me being me, I had to respond. I pointed out that the low batting average (didn’t even mention the high strikeout ratio) before his thumb injury coupled with the even LOWER batting average during his rehab in Pawtucket, might have been a bigger cause for his leaving Boston than a group of rowdy fans booing him.
Suffice it to say, Kevin and I have gone back and forth a couple of times on this subject now. Kevin feels that the booing hurt Bellhorn so deeply that he COULDN’T perform and that’s why he left. I feel that, while I hate the booing and I’m sure it hurt Bellhorn, being put in the position to fail every night by his manager (Tito couldn’t give the kid a couple or three days off to regroup and to let the fans settle down?) added to his downward spiraling batting average which eventually led him to Pawtucket and being designated for assignment. Not the boos.
I always liked Bellhorn and would actually get into verbal altercations this season at Fenway with idiots who were booing him. But I refuse to believe that the booing is what led him to New York. Aside from the 2004 post season (in which Bellhorn was amazing for us) the guy produced very little. Heck, the fans wanted Pokey at second, not Bellhorn, BECAUSE Pokey produced in the field and behind the plate…Bellhorn, not so much.
So it isn’t like Bellhorn went from being this amazing player to being booed by the hometown fans.
He went from being a mediocre player (how many fans were longing for Todd Walker still after the first two months of the 2004 season?) to being a player with key hits (homeruns!) in the post season, to being a LESS than mediocre player in the 2005 season.
Bellhorn is one of Youkilis’ best friends, though, so I do understand his wanting to defend him. Youk also argued that the number 9 guy doesn’t have to bat .300 or hit 40 homeruns to be effective.
True. But batting in the low .200s, and coming up in key situations and almost constantly whiffing, doesn’t inspire confidence. You don’t need 9 all-stars in your lineup, but it helps if the entire lineup at least has a sense of how to make contact with the ball.
I hate sounding like I’m bashing Bellhorn. I’m not. From what I’ve been told, he’s a great guy…and I think he just had a bad year and I hope he gets picked up for 2006 and gets a chance to prove he can be effective in surroundings that aren’t as intense as Boston or New York. Based on what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced that’s going to happen.
Bottom line for me about the booing…I hate it and don’t see why fans would boo their own. But there is no way I believe it is what ran Bellhorn out of town.
The Sox designated him for assignment. He could have taken the assignment, been brought back up to the bigs for the month of September and proven himself. Instead, he refused, signed with the Yankees and pretty much showed the boo-birds what we would have been in store for if he had come back to the team.
Even though I think those fans who booed are jerks, it isn’t their fault that Bellhorn didn’t perform well.