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Happy trails, Youk!

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Saying goodbye to a Red Sox favorite

As sports fans, we become attached to those who play for our beloved teams. While fandom has become more about rooting for laundry than individuals in recent years, we still develop feelings for the athletes who go out there day after day and do their best to contribute to the cause.

Alas, the day inevitably comes when we have to bid farewell to our favorites. That day arrived for Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was traded to the Chicago White Sox this weekend in exchange for pitcher Zach Stewart and utilityman Brent Lillibridge.

Youkilis has been a beloved member of the Red Sox since he was first called up from the minor leagues in 2004. He was a part of Boston's two 21st century World Series wins and a vital piece of the puzzle in 2007. He finished in the top six in MVP voting twice. He won one Gold Glove and could have easily won more, despite playing third base, first base, left fieldwhatever the team needed.

While Youkilis's career numbers don't necessarily wow you 133 home runs, 564 RBI and a .287 average is a good line, but hardly all-time it can't be denied that he brought more to the table than mere statistics. He's a gamer, and Boston has always loved its gamers.

Boston's relationship with Youkilis can rather succinctly be summed up thusly: every single time the guy stepped into the Fenway Park batter's box, the stands echoed with throatily shouted 'Yoooooouk!'s. Kevin Youkilis is a hustler. He sweats like no human being should. His uniform rarely stays clean. He's passionate and fiery and a very, very good baseball player.

He will be missed.

The trade might not look particularly impressive for the Red Sox Stewart and Lillibridge are hardly top-shelf talents but it was a trade that needed to be made. Youkilis's injury struggles in recent years combined with the blazing hot start from new Red Sox third base wunderkind Will Middlebrooks have led to Youk's obsolescence. He's still a heck of a player, but with Middlebrooks holding down third, Adrian Gonzalez ensconced at first base and a spate of injured outfielders preparing to return, there was simply no place for Youkilis to play. The Red Sox organization respected Youk's ability and desire to be an everyday player and did their best to find a good landing spot for him. He'll do well in Chicago.

Kevin Youkilis never quite achieved the sustained stardom that some of us expected. His time as the famed 'Greek God of Walks' so dubbed by A's general manager Billy Beane in Michael Lewis's 'Moneyball' didn't pan out the way we imagined. That's okay. What we got might be even better.

We root for laundry. But sometimes, the guys wearing that laundry stick around long enough for us to get as attached to the name on the back as we are to the name on the front. Kevin Youkilis was one of those guys. He gave us almost a decade of excellent baseball played the right way. For a baseball fan, there are few things better.

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