The biggest stumbling block in the signing of Kevin Youkilis to the New York Yankees might not have been the Indians or the Dodgers, it could have been the Yankees' own Joba Chamberlain.
There's been a lot of bad blood between the two ever since the Yankees' reliever buzzed a couple of 99-mph fastballs past his old Red Sox rival's head during his rookie year in 2007. The following year, Chamberlain almost tagged Youkilis again. That throw prompted Youkilis to charge the mound before he was retrained by his Red Sox teammates.
"He has great command until Youk gets in there," then Red Sox manager Terry Francona quipped about Chamberlain at the time.
So in keeping with the spirit of the season — the offseason trading one — Chamberlain attempted to be the first Yankee to welcome Youkilis to New York when he phoned the third baseman to ease the tension before the two players have to share a clubhouse.
Chamberlain's initial try resulted in leaving a voice mail for Youkilis, who will officially become a Yankee after he passes a physical. He accepted the Yankees' offer for a one-year deal for $12.4 million Monday to fill in for Alex Rodriguez while he recovers from hip surgery.
The feud petered out over the past couple of seasons as Chamberlain saw less playing time due to injuries, but last season the reliever did plunk Youkilis after he was dealt to the White Sox. Youk took the hit and trotted to first base without incident.
Johnny Damon, who played with Youkilis in Boston and Chamberlain in New York, doesn't expect any friction between the two during the transition.
"Joba gets pumped up, especially when he was a young player," said Damon.
Mariano Rivera, one of the Yankees elder statesmen, had only praise for A-Rod's new replacement.
"One thing I know is that the guy plays hard," said Rivera of Youkilis. "Yankee (fans) didn't like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform. I can't decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that."
Rodriguez will be undergoing the surgery in January and the Yankees are hopeful of his return by June. Something tells me fans aren't going to be that hopeful after A-Rod's performance during the 2012 playoffs.