August 11, 2009.
That was the day that 20-year old Rick Porcello plunked a bald, grumpy Red Sox player and started a beautiful hatred. Porcello was in the midst of a pretty good rookie year (that reached its apex in a wonderfully pitched game 163), and the Tigers were in the middle of a testy four-game series against Boston. Detroit had lost the previous night, and the Sox had hit three Tigers batters, including hitting Miguel Cabrera once the night before and again this night. Porcello and Gerald Laird swear that it was an errant pitch, but regardless of intent, in the second inning Porcello pegged Kevin Youkilis square in the back and ignited powder keg.
What was this burly veteran doing running at the young rookie? Did he just throw his HELMET at Porcello? Thankfully, Ricky P wreslted the irritable and sometimes irritating Youkilis to the ground, but the furious race to the mound and that pathetic helmet toss was forever ingrained in the minds of a fanbase.
Ever since that moment I know my group of friends and I (and many fellow fans in the bars of Grand Rapids) have rallied against Youkilis at every opportunity. Any time a Red Sox game was broadcast it was an excuse for people to hurl expletives and abysmal curses at the man. We dug for any fuel we could: A buddy of mine went to the same high school as Youkilis and recalled him being a mammoth turd. Friends who were Boston fans would admit that although the loved Youk, if he were on a different team they would despise him. And, the ultimate insult, he helped tank two of my fantasy baseball teams when I had been in first place for months with injuries.
Yet Bobby Valentine almost, almost made us feel for him when he openly bashed Youkilis earlier in the year. Who wants to be called out by their manager in the national media so early in a season, if at all? But still, it was Kevin Youkilis schadenfreude as his injuries mounted and the Red Sox stunk. And then, the unthinkable happened: he was traded from a place where we could hate from afar, to a place where we could hate right on our front doorstep.
Kevin Youkilis was acquired by the White Sox.
I’d venture to say that, of all the teams in the AL Central, Detroit fans hate the White Sox the most – It’s an unbridled hatred with serious gravity to it. And then, to add such a despicable player with such a sordid history against the Tigers? It was hate squared.
He had been doing miserably against the Tigers that season with a slash of .115/.194/.328. Except on August 12, when the Sox were still causing Tigers fans to sweat and he crushed two homers and knocked in four runs. And the hatred was renewed.
And now? There’s rumors that he could very well join the Cleveland Indians. The same Indians who snatched up Terry Francona before the season could end. The same Indians who just always seem to have a knack for taking a few frustrating games from the Tigers every season. Kevin Youkilis. On the Indians.
It’s probably a psychological thing at this point: anything he does for the rest of his career will just be innately irritating. He could even become a Detroit Tiger, and it would still be a grudging acceptance, and any poor performance would serve to drive a fan to a boiling rage. But if he really does join the Indians, that will be three of the teams I hate the most gainfully employing the player I hate the most.
I still can’t believe he threw that helmet.