On Tuesday, one of the surest signs yet of the impending apocalypse occurred in the Bronx.
Kevin Youkilis, one-time "idiot" and two-time World Series champion with the Red Sox, agreed to a one-year, $12 million deal with the New York Yankees for the 2013 season.
Jettisoned in a mid-season trade to the White Sox by the franchise that had selected him in the eighth round of the 2001 draft, the 33-year-old Youkilis will get his opportunity to exact his revenge on Boston while wearing Yankee pinstripes.
It's possible that calling this move a forewarning of the approaching end of days is hyperbolic, but one might not be so sure if you talk to enough Yankee fans.
A cursory glance at any Yankee-related fan forum, Facebook page or a few minutes of listening to New York-based sports talk radio might convince you otherwise.
The sky is falling, cats are living with dogs and we're all going to die.
While it's true that Youkilis was once a living embodiment of so many of the "qualities" that Yankee fans love to hate about the Red Sox and their fan base, the "Greek God of Walks" represents a short-term solution to an issue the club found themselves facing.
Simply, the Yankees desperately needed a third baseman. With the recent revelation that Alex Rodriguez requires another hip surgery that will sideline the quickly-deteriorating former star for 4-6 months, Brian Cashman was unexpectedly forced into the free agent market to fill a void he didn't know the team had.
Of course, there are certainly valid criticisms of the move.
No one can deny that Youkilis has been oft-injured over recent seasons. From 2010-2012, he has averaged only 115 games per year, spending roughly the same amount of time on the DL as Arod, the man he is replacing. Even at his peak, Youkilis maxed out at only 147 games during the 2006 season. It may prove necessary to rest him at regular intervals by giving utility man Jayson Nix a weekly start at third.
Youkilis is also coming off his worst season in the big leagues since he became a regular in 2006. The career .283 hitter saw his average drop to a career-low .235 last year, while his .745 OPS was also the lowest he had produced since earning a call-up to the show.
Remember though, that as recently as 2011, Youkilis had an .833 OPS, while his adjusted OPS+ was 123. During the 2010 season, he hit .307 with a robust .411 on-base percentage and a stellar OPS+ of 157. Of course, that was 2010 and Youkilis has been trending undeniably downward, but still shy of his 34th birthday, he should still be capable of finding a happy medium between that production and his disappointing 2012.
There are those that are concerned that adding another aging former-star to a team loaded with such players is a step sideways, rather than forward. Youkilis will turn 34 prior to Opening Day and his best days are behind him, but the beauty of a one-year deal is that you don't need to worry about the future, only the coming season. If Youkilis suffers through another injury-riddled campaign, you cut ties at the end of the year and move on.
Some will be concerned that Youkilis and Joba Chamberlain, former combatants who found themselves embroiled in more than one on-field tussle, might not be able to set aside their acrimonious past. It's certainly true that the two had a few run-ins and ugly incidents over the years, but that was in the heat of battle and enough time has passed for any wounds to have healed.
These are two grown men, getting paid handsomely to play baseball for the New York Yankees. Things happen when engaged in a fierce, competitive rivalry. It's the nature of sport. Occasionally, angst and testosterone take over, rendering one incapable of rational thought or action.
Joba and Youk will now be on the same side of the storied Boston-New York rivalry, hopefully unified in their quest to bring another championship to the Bronx. With the well-respected veteran leadership of Jeter, Mariano, Pettitte and CC around, the once-feuding duo should be able to reconcile their past differences for the good of the team.
If your primary concern is of the "oh my god, I hate the Red Sox and anything associated with them" variety, I understand your perspective, but get over it.
Major League Baseball is a business and everyone but the fans seem to realize this. While we revel in the nastiness of the rivalry, stopping our lives to obsess over clashes between the two franchises, the players often behave like buddies, cavorting off the field and smiling all the way to the bank.
As much as we'd like it to, the "fierce" rivalry doesn't mean as much to them anymore as it does to us. They're all fraternal brothers getting insanely rich off of our passions. I'm not saying that most of them don't want to win badly, but what's there to get angry about when the average MLB player salary is $3.2 million?
Plus, we've already embraced numerous ex-Red Sox who came to New York and helped the Yankees to glory. Of course, Babe Ruth is the most obvious example, but more recently, Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens made the switch and won the World Series in the Bronx. Even more recently, Johnny Damon did so as well. Perhaps Youkilis will be the next to break hearts across New England.
Earlier in the offseason, many had assumed that Eric Chavez would remain in the Bronx to continue his two-year spell as the Yankees back-up third baseman after he appeared revitalized during a productive 2012 season. That scenario didn't come to pass, as Chavez instead accepted a one-year, $3 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, opting to move closer to his Phoenix-area home.
Nix was never a real consideration, as he has never been an everyday player and would likely be exposed if given regular playing time. He has his value as a utility man, but a starting third baseman on a contender, he is not.
Some have clamored for the dynamic Eduardo Nunez to be given a chance to solidify a regular role with the team, but he has very little experience at third and his defense has been atrocious in his limited playing time. Nunez has shown glimpses of potential with the bat and on the base-paths, but his glove and throwing arm have left much to be desired.
Given the Yankees' lack of Major League-ready positional talent, Cashman's only viable option was to look outside the organization to fill the void at the hot corner.
The current crop of available third basemen was less-than impressive at best. Scott Rolen is older and even more injury prone than A-Rod. Mark DeRosa carries the same baggage. Chone Figgins, Brandon Inge and Ty Wigginton are utility players at best. Casey McGehee was a member of the Yankees to close out the 2012 season, but he has been absolutely atrocious since a productive 2010. Over 2011-12, he has hit .221 with a .632 OPS.
For the time being, Kevin Youkilis was the best available option.
$12 million could very well be too much for the aging veteran and it's true that the Yankees will spend nearly $40 million between Youk and A-Rod to man one position. But, this is the reality the team currently faces. A-Rod's contract is likely impossible to move and third base needed to be covered in his absence.
It's not my favorite move ever, there are reasons to be skeptical and honestly, it will take some time to re-calibrate my feelings toward Kevin Youkilis.
However, my primary concern is whether the man can help the Yankees win ballgames. If Youkilis can accomplish that, then I endorse the move whole-heartedly.