By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Cliff Lee left.
Zach Greinke never arrived.
But the biggest, most unlikely conundrum for your Texas Rangers this off-season: Michael Young is still here. That is, unless somebody misplaced the Claw or the Antlers, too?
To say the least, this hasn't been a spiffy winter for the defending American League champions. Yes, they signed third baseman Adrian Beltre, acquired veteran hitter Mike Napoli, agreed to a contract extension with American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton and are putting the finishing touches on a grand new scoreboard out in Arlington. But as the Rangers open spring training this week in Surprise, Arizona—yes, already—they have no legitimate No. 1 pitching ace and, just as important, their long-time face of the franchise is unhappy to the point of demanding a trade.
Young, the Rangers' all-time hits leader, made the media rounds last week, saying he's been "misled" and "manipulated" concerning his dwindling role on the team and the front office's pursuit of a trade involving him.
"I've been backed into a corner," Young said.
Admits Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg, "Right now, no one looks good in this situation."
I blame the Rangers. I also blame Young.
Let's face it, Young is 34 with declining skills and an inflated contract (he's scheduled to make $16 million in each of the next three seasons). Let's also not forget that for a decade he's been a great player, an even better teammate and the go-to guy for the Rangers. Whether it was explaining another losing season in the 2000s or speaking to the Rotary Club because Alex Rodriguez refused, the solution has always been Young. That's why last October was so special, watching him finally experience some joy as a Ranger in the playoffs and even in the World Series.
Like I said, it's complicated.
It's never comfortable witnessing our heroes being put out to pasture. Bill Parcells cut Emmitt Smith in 2003. Mark Cuban saved money in 2005 by releasing Michael Finley. The Dallas Stars and general manager Joe Nieuwendyk shoved Mike Modano out the door last summer. And, of course, these same Rangers forced an awkward split in 2002 when general manager Doug Melvin decided Pudge Rodriguez had nothing left and failed to re-sign him.
First of all, Young should shut up and play, lest he become another Greg Ellis. The Dallas Cowboys' good-guy defensive captain for years would make a Pro Bowl, only to spend the following off-season bitching about a minimized role, position change or out-of-whack contract. Second of all, the Rangers should treat Young with more respect.
When the Rangers were flirting with 100 losses rather than a World Series appearance, Young was the feel-good foundation of superior people and better days. He became Texas' starting second baseman in 2001, only to graciously move to shortstop in 2004 when A-Rod was traded to the Yankees and the Rangers' management was too wimpy (unlike the Washington Nationals) to make Alfonso Soriano move to the outfield. Despite winning a batting title and a gold glove, Young again was asked by the Rangers to switch positions in 2009, this time to third base to make room for hot-shot shortstop Elvis Andrus. Young initially balked, even briefly and publicly pondered a trade before showing up for spring training and returning to his role as clubhouse chairman.
Last year, despite a drop in his batting average and his range and reflexes in the field, Young made it to the playoffs after 1,508 regular season games. When he hit a homer to help the Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, it was one of the franchise's all-time redemptive highlights.
But now? Realizing that Young had become a defensive liability at third base, the Rangers appropriately upgraded the position by signing Beltre. The result: Young's role diminished, moving him to designated hitter and maybe some spot duty in the infield. Then the Rangers, after failed pursuits of veteran designated hitters such as Jim Thome and Lance Berkman, traded for Napoli, a right-handed hitter penciled in for designated hitter and maybe some spot duty at first base.
Suddenly, the math didn't add up. The centerpiece for so long, Young overnight was a square peg.
Manager Ron Washington continued to shrug off the roster additions, telling fans at the Rangers' winter carnival that "Michael Young is the straw that stirs the Rangers." And, at least publicly, Greenberg and general manager Jon Daniels repeated that they had no intentions of trading Young and that he maintained a vital role in the team's 2011 plans.
Somewhere between Beltre and Napoli, however, Young went from "anything for the team" to "get me the hell outta here." He won't provide real evidence of lying by Daniels, and that's a shame because it would make it much easier to support him. Until he does, the GM gets shielded by simply implying that he's doing anything and everything to make the Rangers a better team this season.
First off, Michael Young offered to move for Soriano. And got a gold glove out of it, so there shouldn't be any complaints there. Secondly, every move made was for a player who is superior to MY. And that's the business of baseball.
You boil down the facts, take all the damn emotion out of it, and sports comes to one thing; winning games, and making sure you keep a team that can win. All Daniels is doing is trying to do is make the best team he possibly can, and if that means needing to trade Young, then by god, trade him!
Baseball is a business. Michael Young needs to shut up and play.
This story about micheal young is only a big deal because the media says it is.Far as I'm concerned I was thinking even before this story that micheal young should be let go.When he's has been in a clutch situation you never did know which micheal young was going to show up and I would cringe when he came to up to bat in those situations.This is all busuness,nothing personnel.Young seems to be a nice guy but that doesn't win ball games.
There are things Michael Young brings to the table that can't be replaced, as you so noted in this piece. The Rangers are better with him than without him. Here's hoping both sides realize this and "make peace".