Kevin Millar on M&M: ‘Kevin Youkilis is an MVP candidate’
|08.12.11 at 3:12 pm ET|
Former Red Sox player and current MLB Network analyst Kevin Millar joined the Mut & Merloni show Friday afternoon to talk about his early impressions of Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez‘ home-run drought and Erik Bedard‘s start on Tuesday.
A handful of Red Sox players — including Pedroia, Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury have been mentioned as MVP candidates my media sources throughout the baseball world. However, it was Kevin Youkilis who Millar called an “MVP candidate.”
“What I’m saying now is I wasn’t into the guy taking 2-0 and 3-1,” Millar said of his initial impression of Youkilis’ overly-patient batting style. “You work to get those counts in the show. Those are your moneymaker counts in the show, 2-0 and 3-1. By god, and you’re taking those counts.
“And Youk, the first time we saw him, you know, we heard about ‘The Greek God of Walks’ and you look at some of his numbers in the minors league. OK, nine homers here. You’ve got to be violent in the show. And he was a third baseman at the time. We had Billy Mueller in ‘03. You’ve got to be violent in the show. And sure enough now, this guy now is an MVP candidate and it is just remarkable what he has done at the big-league level and I’m a fan of his also.”
Before Millar touched on his thoughts of Youkilis as a younger player, he talked about Pedroia, and his interactions with general manager Theo Epstein after Boston drafted the second baseman from Arizona State.
“I mean anybody that stopped growing at fifth grade, and you’re thinking coast-to-coast from Boston all the way to Seattle,” Millar said. “I looked at Theo and go, ‘Woah. Wait a minute. There’s no one taller than 5′7′’ as the first pick in the nation? Is that what we’re talking about right now?’
Added Millar: “The story is, I’m not kidding you, he came out behind the cages and I’m chuckling, like, ‘Who’s the little guy? Who’s the bat boy?’ And Theo’s like, ‘No no no. We compare him to David Eckstein.’ I’m like, ‘Oh OK. Great. ‘¦ And? David Eckstein, and that’s your first-round pick?’ It was kind of like a running joke. I was like [jokingly], ‘OK. 1-0 you when it comes to draftees.’ And then in ‘07 we’ve got Rookie of the Year, World Series champion, Silver Slugger, blah blah blah, real 1-5. And Theo goes, ‘Yup. How do you like him now?’ [I said,] ‘Alright. 1-0 you now.’”
Millar said that he always admired Pedroia’s long swing, especially coming from such an undersized player.
“I truly loved it,” Millar said. “And the reason why that I say that, John MacDonald, who I played with in Toronto in ’09. And Johnny Mac, you get these little guys and everybody tries to tell you, you’re only defense, defense, defense. And so Mac and I hit in that group of broken of broken dreams, which is your fourth group, that non-starters group. You get the BP starter who throws two strikes in 15 minutes. But I told Johnny Mac, what we do now is we hit homers in the show for BP because homers make you feel good. And the first time I saw Dustin Pedroia, I love the little guy who swings the bat. Swings the bat, Swing it like you live, hard. You know what I’m saying? And sometimes you get caught up in If you’re small and you’re a great defender, let’s just work the ball the other way. Let’s just hit-and-run. I love the way Pedey got up there and I’m going to pull everything and try to hit homers.”
Millar was later asked about the accusations that the Blue Jays are stealing signs. He jokingly admitted that they were doing that back when he was still playing in Toronto.
“No doubt about it,” Millar said tongue-in-cheek. ” My ‘09 season, I got snubbed out of the MVP voting. I hit .232 I think with nine homers or whatever I hit. … Yeah. I knew [what pitches were] coming. That was the problem. So there’s too many signs up there.”
Added Millar: “And also the Justin Verlander no-hitter up there, when they got no-hit in Toronto. They must have known what was coming.”
In reality the 2004 World Series champion doesn’t even believe that stealing signs from the bullpen is possible.
“Lou, The fact of the matter is, and we just talked about it yesterday on Intentional Talk, I don’t care. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Millar said. “I could give you a 50-inch flat screen plasma and see what the catcher’s putting down and set up in center field. How are you able to relay that, curveball, to me, across your legs, by the time I look at that, that pitch has to be executed and hanging down the middle, I’ve got to put a swing on it at the perfect time. It doesn’t make sense. And I use this example: In 2003, I don’t know if you remember, we led the world in runs scored.
“Our offense, as an ‘03 club with the Red Sox was one of the best I’ve been around, period. Better than the ‘04 team, OK? And Cleveland, I think it was, said that Mike Timlin was hanging a towel in the right-center field bullpen. That he had a camera in the bullpen and that we were cheating. I said, ‘Wait, timeout. Many Ramirez doesn’t know what city he plays in right now. He thinks we’re in Cincinnati. How in the hell were we going to be cheating because you guys gave up 17 home runs?’ If the pitchers execute their pitches, Lou and Mutt, we’re out. They’re hanging pitches and we get paid to bang the pitches. Right?”
As one would expect a hitter to, Millar blamed the whole sign-stealing conspiracy on pitchers when asked how these incidents are started.
“Pitchers whining and crying because someone rakes them at a certain place,” Millar said. “You go into a city and you give up eight and the next time you give up eight. They say, ‘Hey this team has my signs.’ That’s the only time it matters. And this goes on. That’s part of baseball. Hey if Lou Merloni‘s on second base, he’s the two-hole hitter, I’m the four-hole hitter, hey Lou, if you get the catcher’s signs, cross over on a breaking ball or take your lead normal. That’s OK. But that’s gamesmanship. So you can relay stuff like that, looking the other way. That’s normal stuff. Some fan in center field wearing a white shirt talking about TVs and monitors and, come on, bro. Cut it out. Execute your pitches and keep the ball down and you won’t give up eight.”
Millar compared Gonzalez’ home-run slump to those of other major-leaguers. The former Padre has maintained his excellent batting averages throughout the bomb-less period.
“It’s the same thing we heard about Bobby Abreu when he went to Detroit and hit 50 homers, then came back and hit two for the second half.” Millar said. “Home run derby doesn’t screw your swing up. OK? Playing golf doesn’t screw your swing up. You know when you’re in BP you’re trying to launch and hit homers and you know if you’re in a 1-2 count and facing Josh Beckett you better fight your way to get that ball in play. So I don’t buy into any of that. You go through droughts in the big leagues. You go through homer weeks also. Guys go up there and hit seven homers in their first 15 games. Like [Jose] Bautista. Bautista went through a home run drought. Jay Bruce went through a home run drought. Guys start off with 20 homers in the first 45 games. You don’t keep pace because you’re not going to hit 97 home runs. It’s just a streak. You go through droughts, you get hot.”
Millar supported Bedard, who got squeezed pretty badly by home-plate umpire Tim McClelland.
“You know, I’m a big Bedard fan,” Millar said. “I know he gets a lot of heat because he doesn’t use the media as a stepping stone, doesn’t talk, doesn’t give great quotes. Who cares? OK. I played with him for three years in Baltimore. He had one of the greatest years in ‘07 from a left-hander as far as stuff wise. When he’s healthy, he dominates. And it’s an all-reward situation for Theo. He doesn’t have to give good quotes. That’s why you have teammates. Some guys are shy and inverted, some guys are loudmouths like myself and Lou. That’s the way it is. That’s what makes a team. We just need him behind the mound if you’re the Red Sox to pitch every fifth day. And you know what, you want to stick 12 microphones in his mouth after a bad start and see if you can get anything out of him? That’s OK. That’s the media’s job. But Bedard, this is a nice sign I think by Theo because if he’s healthy he still can win games in the big leagues.”
Millar credited his former teammate’s composure and ability to not get frustrated during the game.
“That’s some of the demeanor that he had that label that he didn’t care,” Millar said. “The guy cares. Listen he’s a French Canadian. He dances to a different beat. Media wise, he doesn’t give quotes, he’s not comfortable, but he had a 36-37 pitch inning that game and he could have lost it. But he went out there and battled through five innings and gave them a quality start. But I think this guy, like I said, was a nice pickup. It’s an all-reward scene, I mean low risk. However that lingo goes.”
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