Kevin Youkilis didn't say it in so many words. But his tirade -- or what came across as a tirade, anyway -- in today's Globe was far less about him than it was about J.D. Drew.
Among the key quotes:
* "I'm just annoyed by the media as a whole. People write stuff about players on this team throughout the whole year and it's been going on for years and people just keep writing crap."
* "You guys don’t have to hear what people say to us on the street. People have made comments to me. I’ve heard them say some things to my teammates. The problem with the game and all sports .... I understand everything’s not positive in this world. And negative stuff sells. But I come to the ballpark and go to a football game or basketball games. I don’t even think you can take kids to a game anymore. There’s so much negative yelling and screaming at players. People don’t even root for their team anymore. They just root against the opposition’s players. They’re so angry at people."
* "People portray people. I’ve been portrayed as a guy who breaks helmets and breaks bats. I don’t do that. The only reason I have a new helmet this year is because the padding wore out on the ear flap of my old one. Whatever. But when I see negative stuff all the time, that bothers me. If I don’t comment, people are going to get mad at me. But I’m just going to ‘no comment’ about certain things. If people don’t like it, they don’t like it."
Youkilis, though, wasn't talking about himself. As was pointed out ad nauseum by writers and talk-show hosts today, Youkilis is one of the most popular players on the team today. Fans love his intensity. Fans love his home runs. Fans love his goatee. Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia would be neck-and-neck in a "Who's your favorite Red Sox player?" poll.
Any guesses who would finish last in that poll?
Fans in Boston get all over J.D. Drew. He gets hurt too often. He walks too often. He's overpaid. Michael Felger, who just got his own drive-time show on the city's newest sports talk radio station, equated the right fielder with the female sex organ when he sat out back-to-back games in Texas a week and a half ago.
It's worth noting that Drew has spent exactly zero time on the disabled list this season. It's also worth noting that Drew has the third-best on-base percentage on the team (behind Youkilis and Jason Bay) and the fourth-best slugging percentage on the team (behind Youkilis, Bay and Mike Lowell).
But he looks dispassionate -- the opposite of Pedroia and Youkilis, not coincidentally -- and so the fans believe he doesn't care.
Bay, for what it's worth, plays the game with the same type of blank expression on his face. Bay has drawn more walks than Drew. Bay has even struck out more often than Drew. But Bay had a monster April and is endlessly patient with reporters and doesn't make $14 million a year, and so his even keel is portrayed as just that.
Drew isn't endlessly patient with the media. Drew hardly talks to the media. Drew often is gone from the locker room by the time the media arrives. This reporter once ducked into the locker room the instant team officials opened it up -- and still had to half-jog across the room just to catch Drew before he could slip out the door.
Drew wasn't going to lash out about the criticism. Youkilis, though, had had enough.
"The biggest things about the fans, the negative part, was there's just comments from selected fans once in a while which are not directed toward me but toward my teammates," Youkilis said in a session with reporters this afternoon. "I feel like I have to stick up for some guys, and maybe it's not my platform to do that. Sometimes you get frustrated because you see teammates really going out there and working hard. Sometimes they're not producing like they'd like to, but they're putting forth the effort and it's not because they're not trying. They're just not having success."
He wasn't talking about himself. He was doing what Bill Lee once did for Carl Yastrzemski during a June swoon in 1975. He was inviting fans and media to target him so they wouldn't target another guy on his team.
In a lot of ways, it was a pretty impressive thing to do.