A Kevin Youkilis joke by President Barack Obama elicited boos from a Boston crowd during a campaign speech Monday.
The controversy over his remarks has the camp of Obama's GOP rival, Mitt Romney, in a tissy, as it tries to spin the exchange to generate some negative headlines and perhaps some votes from residents of Romney's home state of Massachusetts, where he served as Governor.
Obama is surely aware that Red Sox Nation fans are very defensive about their team, and that Youkilis was one of their favorite players, despite his waning performance. After all, Kevin Youkilis was one of the leaders of the Red Sox resurgence that brought a pair of long-awaited World Series trophies to Boston in 2004 and 2007.
On Sunday, Kevin Youkilis played his last game with his beloved Red Sox in front of thousands of dejected Boston fans at Fenway Park. He wiped away tears as he announced that he had been officially traded to the Chicago White Sox, after nine years with the Red Sox, for pitcher Zach Stewart and utility infielder Brent Lillibridge.
But despite this history of love between Red Sox Nation and Kevin Youkilis, according to ESPN, Obama couldn't resist joking about the whole situation while speaking at Beantown' Symphony Hall on Monday.
Boston, I just want to say thank you for Youkilis, Obama said, bringing about what ESPN described as seemingly good-natured, defend-our-team boos from the crowd. I'm just saying, he had to change the color of his socks ... I didn't think I'd get any boos out of here. I guess I should not have brought up baseball. My mistake.
He covered his tracks by making a joke, which the crowd responded to by laughing:
You've got to know your crowd, he said, and a crowd member crowed, We still love you!
But a Mitt Romney 2012 daily email blast to the press on Tuesday made sure to bring up the exchange, as Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul led the missive with an attack on Obama's comments:
Maybe the president should have congratulated the team for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007, she wrote. Instead, he chose to mock them for trading away one of its favorite players at a time when the team is struggling.
This came despite the fact, as ESPN pointed out, that the team is above .500 and has won seven of its past 10 games.
White House press secretary Jay Carney responded to all the hubbub by telling reporters that there had been some really silly reporting about the remarks.
Anyone who knows Boston, and anyone who was in that room last night, knows that the preponderance of people shouting in response to what the president said about Youkilis were saying 'Yoooouk' and not 'Booo' for God's sake, Carney added.
Some booed. Others, like me, cried 'Yoooouk!' in sad memoriam, he later said on Twitter.
Before Sunday, Kevin Youkilis -- nickname Youk -- had for weeks been at the center of ongoing speculation that he could be traded as both his performance and his relationship with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine faltered.
And the rise of promising rookie Will Middlebrooks as a possible viable permanent replacement also put strain on the team's relationship with Youkilis, who was sitting on the bench repeatedly as Middlebrooks played his position.
There appeared to be little movement toward an official decision regarding the hometown favorite, as MLB.com reported Sunday morning that there were still a number of teams looking at him, including the White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates.
As of Saturday afternoon, Kevin Youkilis trade rumors were still just that, according to his comments as reported by MLB.com: I have no thoughts on anything ... I haven't been told anything. Until I'm told anything, I can't really respond.
Youkilis added: I'm a paid employee here. They make the decisions with that ... When you're a paid employee and the boss tells you to do something, you do it. Until they tell me something, I'm here to play with the Red Sox.
Kevin Youkilis had had a hard time with Bobby Valentine, most notably in a public spat with him in April. Most recently, he had been benched three games in a row, while Middlebrooks has been shining.
Youkilis addressed that situation during comments on Saturday.
I went 2-for-3 my last time [playing], he said. But if you don't play, I don't know how much closer you can get. If you don't hit, don't play, you can't put up many stats. I raked in the cage, if you want to know that. I was hitting missiles all over the place, but you don't get credit for that.