Error-free Youkilis snags Gold Glove
Pristine defense makes first baseman a first-time winner
BOSTON -- Kevin Youkilis strung together 135 errorless games and 1,094 errorless innings while playing, perhaps, the American League's most aggressive first base in 2007. But he could only watch and wait like everyone else when the annual voters -- the AL managers and coaches -- fielded his candidacy for a Rawlings Gold Glove.
Score this one clean, with no error on the play. For the first time in his four-year Major League career, Youkilis has won a Gold Glove.
And it's not at the position where he spent 212 of his 272 Minor League games. Youkilis, raised for six professional seasons as a third baseman, is the AL Gold Glove winner at first, just one year after making a full-time switch.
"It's definitely quite an accomplishment, just winning a Gold Glove," said Youkilis. "Coming up as a third baseman and trying to work so hard to make it as a third baseman and trying to improve on my defense there, and to step in and play first base last year ... And now, this year, to have a great year there and win a Gold Glove, means so much to me."
Youkilis is the first Boston Red Sox player to win a Gold Glove since Jason Varitek in 2005, and the 15th Red Sox winner (the first at first base since George Scott in 1971) since Gold Gloves were first awarded in 1957. Teammates Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp, whose outstanding defensive seasons made them buzz-worthy candidates, if not favorites, were nevertheless denied Gold Gloves.
For Youkilis, Tuesday's announcement wrapped up what had mostly become a forgone conclusion. The star first-sacker was the only first baseman in either league to finish with as many as 1,080 errorless chances at his position. Kansas City's Ryan Shealy was second, with 432.
Youkilis' defensive season was so great, in fact, that history struggles to provide an adequate comparison. Before this year, only San Diego's Steve Garvey in 1984 had qualified for a Gold Glove with a 1.000 fielding percentage at first.
Garvey holds the all-time Major League record of 193 consecutive errorless games at first, from June 26, 1983-April 14, 1985. Youkilis, who is sitting on an active streak of 190 games, could tear down that mark in April of next year, not long after the Red Sox unfurl the 2007 World Series championship banner at Fenway Park.
Youkilis made quick work of the team and AL records this year. On June 25, he snuffed Stuffy McInnis' Red Sox record of 120 games, set in 1921.
His active streak of 1,586 errorless chances by season's end also set a team record. McInnis holds the all-time Major League record for errorless chances at 1,700, which he carried over from Boston to Cleveland in 1922.
On Sept. 7, Youkilis knocked down Mike Hegan's AL record of 178 errorless games, set during the 1973 season.
But it wasn't just about the errors. Youkilis' 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame wasn't the leanest among American Leaguers, but he used it to great effect around the bag. Less quick than agile, he routinely displayed a knack for getting jumps, playing angles, and collapsing his body like a wide receiver -- giving up his body in the process -- to cradle throws from across the diamond.
"I'm not worried about making an error," Youkilis said. "That's not something I worry about. I try to help the team win and try to get outs any way I can."
The Fenway faithful, who didn't only bellow "Yooooouuukkkkk" when he was at the plate, can certainly vouch for his effort in the field.
"I don't think it's just consistency," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona in September. "I think that's a good word. But there are guys that go out and not make errors -- and that's good -- but he makes all the plays. He doesn't shy away from making plays. He'll make a throw to any base. He's done a very good job."
For his unique style, Youkilis credited his experience across the diamond.
"I like to be a little daring," Youkilis said. "I like to charge on bunts. I like throwing the ball to second, throwing the ball to third. I like to sort of use what I learned as a third baseman to help me as a first baseman."
Fellow first-time winners in the AL include Minnesota pitcher Johan Santana, Detroit second baseman Placido Polanco, Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre and Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore. Rounding out the list are annual favorites Ivan Rodriguez of Detroit, Orlando Cabrera of Los Angeles, Ichiro Suzuki of Seattle and Torii Hunter of Minnesota.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.