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Two distinct takes on the Michael Young situation

Feb 9, 2011, 2:02 PM EST

Michael Young AP AP

First we have Evan Grant’s take in the Dallas Morning News.*  Grant writes — in a very, very long open letter — that both Young and the Rangers are at fault, both sides have acted somewhat poorly, though understandably so and that each side must swallow its pride and carry on for the greater good of the Texas Rangers:

As I type this, it’s not too late to rescue this, I think. Everybody must accept some blame. The Rangers for the poor manner in which they’ve communicated with a player from whom they have asked so much. Young must accept blame for being overly-sensitive on the matter and lashing back publicly at the organization.

They must sit down, explain their positions, yell at one another and ultimately each accept some blame. That’s what happens in successful marriages, all of which face tests and challenges along the way. This has been the most successful marriage in Rangers history. It would be a shame if it broke up over poor communication.

Then, in contrast, we have Mike Hindman at Baseball Time in Arlington who is NOT having it. For a second.  After saying that Young “has lost his f*****g mind” and that he’s a “nut job,” Hindman writes:

Now that the chickens have come home to roost and some of us wonder how Michael Young became such a narcissistic jackass, we can look back at that moment and see that the Rangers encouraged Young’s delusions by treating a pretty good player as if he were a superstar for no good reason.  This seems to have taught Young that he was entitled to things because he was “Michael Young, Face of the Franchise” rather than for what he actually did on the field.

The local megia — who already liked this very clean-cut, hard-working, immensely likable young man a whole lot – immediately seized on this theme and wildly over-mythologized Young’s “sacrifice.”  It was easy for the beats and columnists to fall in love with Young after having to deal with jackwagons like Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira.  Young, by comparison, was humble and accountable and accessible.  And so the folks in the press box created a narrative of Young bordering on beatification (Patron Saint of Sports Sacrifice), and then they kept doing it, and doing it and doing it some more.

Boom.  And then Hindman goes on to note that two Hall of Famers and one future Hall of Famer — George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski and Ichiro — moved positions and changed roles without anything approaching this kind of sturm and drang, and that that ought to tell us something.

I can’t say that I’ve followed Young’s career terribly closely, but I gotta tell ya: Hindman’s assessment of all of this seems a lot more plausible than Grant’s.  Mostly because Grant leaves the media’s role out of it, and given how much of this has played out in the media — dating back to Young’s initial move off second base – that is a pretty key oversight.

People start to believe their own press clippings, and I’m sure Michael Young is not immune to that.  And like Hindman, I tend to agree that he’s overplaying the victim card a bit too much here.

*Hurm. The post disappeared after I first read it. What is now linked is the cached version.  Did the Morning News take it down?  I dunno.  But let me know if the cached version disappears too.

  1. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    I do admit that he’s been asked to do a lot more than other players have had to, at least as far as we fans know. However, I agree that both sides should admit their faults and move on.

    • mrhojorisin - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:38 PM

      C’mon… lots of people in lots of jobs are asked to change or augment what it is that they do… and they ain’t making millions in the process.

  2. Mike Luna - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    I’m with Hindman.

    I’ve heard a lot of media people taking up for Michael Young because he’s ‘just a nice guy’ or whatever. Jim Reeves at ESPN Dallas wrote a long, windy opinion piece that put the blame squarely on everyone except for MY [GMs past and present, owners past and present, Nolan Ryan, and even Buck Showalter].

    “They’ve just pushed him too far!” they cry.

    There’s no doubt that some of the blame goes to the front office, but Young lost my vote when he went on the offensive and called out Jon Daniels. His comments were uncalled for and completely unlike everything the media has taught us about MY up to this point.

  3. yankeesfanlen - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    Does Hindman forget that one of his jackwagons switched positions when he left the Rangers? Guess those three got out of Arlington to escape the brutal press coverage of the DFW pressure-cooker.

    • ghtepper - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      Quick! Explain to me how that’s even remotely relevant!

    • elibolender - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:06 PM

      Hindman calling ARod a “jackwagon” had nothing to do with his ability on the field or willingness to play anywhere on the field. He was simply stating that dealing with a player/person like MY is not nearly as hard as people like ARod/Tex/Soriano and a reason why he understands to an extent how far the press went in deifying MY.

  4. spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    One issue that seems to be overlooked, is the effects of player position movement. A lot has been written the past couple of days regarding his obligation to move wherever his team needed him. While I always enjoyed the challenge of a new position, and sympathize with the sentiments of team loyalty, a player’s best interests can be seriously eroded by position movement. I am not sure where Michael Young played in the minors, but he sure looks like a second-baseman to me. I know looks are deceiving, but my guess is he played some SS, but always envisioned himself as a 2B. So he comes to the Rangers, has a couple of productive years at 2B, and then they ask him to move to SS. So he obliges, even if he vocalized some complaint. Maybe his reason for disagreement , didn’t stem from inflexibility, but because he knew his limitations, and felt that he would be scorned for his defensive inadequacy there. But he prevails, once even receiving an arguably unjustified gold glove. Soon however, he is asked to move again, this time to 3B. Knowing that 3B is a power position he again balks at the idea, fearing he will be condemned for his lack of power, and slowly seeing himself being moved out of the picture. But he acquiesces, adapts and finally, enjoys his first post-season.
    It looks like the Rangers have finally figured it out, the management seems solid for the first time in memory and he looks forward to 2011, with a great young nucleus, and the hopes of landing an ace starter. But Cliff Lee signs elsewhere, but there are other starters out there and maybe the awesome offense can carry them. Then, WHAM, the Rangers go and sign a 3B, with the money they should have used to garner a starter. Guess what Michael Young, now we want you to be a part-time DH/1B at 34. I’m not happy, but I get reassurance that I will get a lot of playing time so I agree. Then a few days later, SLAM, the Rangers trade, their past closer, who could be one again, thus allowing the very promising Felix ? to fill the starter spot away for WHAT, a right-handed DH, and if that isn’t enough there continue to be rumors that they are contemplating adding Vlad, another right-handed DH. Okay guys, I get the picture, soon I won’t have the size or power or productivity to be either a 1B or DH. I am only 34, have kept myself in good shape, feel like I can still contribute on an everyday basis, especially at 2B. Remember 2B, that place where I was pretty good, where my offensive numbers are more than respectable, and oh yeah, I happen to play every damn day and where a few other teams seem to think like me. So Ta-Ta, Adios, been nice knowin’ ya, I believe it is time for me to be moving on, before you guys envision me as your bat boy.

    • paperlions - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:02 PM

      Again, if Young was actually good defensively, they wouldn’t have moved him off of SS or 3B, but he’s never been better than average and he hasn’t sniffed average for some years. Add to that the fact that he only hits well in Arlington (where everyone hits well), and he simply isn’t a viable everyday option for a team with contending aspirations….being a below average hitter and fielder isn’t a great combination. Great players aren’t asked to move often because they are great, MY is nothing like a great player, he’s just paid like one and treated like one by the media.

      • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:28 PM

        I thought this was covered yesterday, but maybe not. Michael Young isn’t a good SS or 3B. He cannot hit for enough power to justify a 3B/1B/DH position. But as a 2B, he is at least adequate, plays every day, (something that sabermathmaticians still fail to adjust stats for), and hits very well at, in comparison to his counterparts. Is this all Ranger onus. Not necessarily, they developed superlative talent in Kinsler and Andrus, which justified the previous moves by Young, even if they tarnished his athletic abilities.
        I believe his complaint was that he felt “misled and manipulated”. Certainly misled, if the moves were with the understanding he was to be considered an integral part of the team. And manipulated, well maybe if after he agreed to shift to 1B/DH, they then suggested he wasn’t powerful/productive enough and then supplanted him with someone who they feel can fit the bill. Yeah, I’d say misled and manipulated are probably pretty accurate.
        It is my belief that there are a number of contending teams that would jump at the chance to have him as their starting second baseman, but his salary and lateness of the Ranger decision making, make moves difficult. Something tells me that he will be making some contending organization very happy soon.

      • Joe - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:34 PM

        “he simply isn’t a viable everyday option for a team with contending aspirations”

        That’s a bit of hyperbole, isn’t it? He played 157 games last year for a team that went to the World Series. He didn’t have a great series, but he hit well enough against the Yankees.

        You probably couldn’t get far if MY were your BEST player. But teams certainly can and do contend with lesser players than him playing every day.

      • Joe - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:37 PM

        “plays every day, (something that sabermathmaticians still fail to adjust stats for)”

        Never heard of WAR, have you?

      • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 4:58 PM

        Either you do not understand WAR, or me, for now I will suspect the latter. Currently, players are not rewarded for games played in WAR, or any of the variations that I can see. I hope I am wrong. I would love to see the games played adjustment adopted. More precisely, innings played. It would work something like this. A perfect score would be of course 1458. The total number of innings a player could conceivably play in a year. (Discounting rain outs, extra innings, suspended games, or Division season ending-tied playoff.) Now then, take the actual number of games played, and divide by the perfect score. Then take this number multiply it by the WAR number. Next take the mean replacement player number multiply it by the difference between actual innings played and the replacement innings and add it to the accumulated total. A more complicated method would include the rain out etc, innings, creating a new maximum, and rather than use the WAR mean, actually create a real stat with the actual replacement(s). This way a players’ durability and/or toughness could be factored into WAR.

      • paperlions - Feb 9, 2011 at 5:35 PM

        That would be a silly adjustment. WAR is just fine as constructed. If a player plays a lot and plays well, his WAR continues to increase, if he plays a lot and plays crappy, his WAR continues to decrease. You seem to want an adjustment that assigns positive value for continued poor play (play with negative or no value above replacement), which is all kinds of foolish.

      • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 6:41 PM

        No it would not. It would create a stat that was much more indicative of a player’s value to the team. How, valuable is a player when he is not playing and a sorry-assed sub is in his place, and why shouldn’t that be a reflection on a players’ value to a team. What we are trying to do is evaluate talent so it can best be utilized by team so that it can win. No matter how good a player is he is worthless to a team while he rides the pine. By simple logic a player who performs at a level for 150+ games, is vastly more valuable then one who only plays 100 games with the same WAR. What I want is the player who forces a team to play a reserve because he cannot answer the bell to be penalized by the performance of his replacement. Then compare the combined stats, with the one who plays the 150+ games to give the team an actual performance metric for that position for that year.
        The original WAR would be valuable in assessing a players’ possible contributions if he were able to play 150+, but it is not very representative of the overall contributions their second basemen made.
        A 100 game player has additional advantages. More rest, better match-ups, and playing at full strength, but in order to access his TEAM value the revised WAR would be more indicative.
        I am not predicting outcomes here. Maybe a team would be better off with, with combined players. But it isn’t fair to a guy who goes out there everyday, allowing other positions to have better and more valuable replacements to be evaluated equally with those who perform less often

      • paperlions - Feb 9, 2011 at 6:55 PM

        Again, you are missing the point of value. A player that is worse than replacement does his team a favor when he’s hurt, there is no positive value to playing if you suck. I appreciate that the player tries, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he has negative value (less than a typical AAA call up) to his team if he simply isn’t any good.
        .
        All of those potential “additional advantages” you list are already incorporated into WAR. If a guy plays better because of rest, or better matchups, that is reflected in his production and therefore in his WAR.
        .
        No offense, but people that have thought about this longer and better than you created these metrics and continue to try to improve them. Your suggestion would do nothing to improve any evaluation of value.

      • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 7:57 PM

        If I am wrong here I will be the first to fess up. I do not pretend to be a sabermetric authority, but I am pretty well acquainted with most of calculations, and I try to keep up with the ever-changing improvements. Before I defended my WAR criticism, I consulted a number of sites to make sure my claims hadn’t already been addressed. It is why I made the distinction between the use of WAR as an indicator of potential value to a team, and its real value to a team. Simply saying others have thought about this longer and harder is elitist dogma. No where do you explain how a player who plays everyday is less valuable to his team. The suggestion that playing hurt is detrimental to the team is unsubstantiated. I was clear that my adjusted WAR, predicts no outcome. You don’t know any more that I do if an injured player is more valuable than his replacement, because you don’t know how often or how injured that player is. Some players are effective playing hurt and others aren’t. This would be almost impossible to quantify because you would enter the realm of pain tolerance and mind over matter capabilities.
        Until you can explain to me how a player adds value to a team while a vastly
        inferior sub is inserted into his place I will continue my position. Yes, the additional advantages are incorporated into the WAR of a 100 game player, but his value to his team while he nurses his injuries is nil. And his replacement stats need to be added to his to give a team a true indication of how the oft injured player truly contributes to a team.

    • scatterbrian - Feb 9, 2011 at 5:21 PM

      “…a player’s best interests can be seriously eroded by position movement.”

      Sorry man, the team comes first. They aren’t going to ask you to move if it’s going to make the team worse, and improving the team is in every player’s best interest.

      “…but he sure looks like a second-baseman to me.”

      Understand that your perception of how Michael Young looks has absolutely no bearing on where he should play, and no one here is taking this seriously.

      You obviously feel Young was wronged, and that he is being treated unfairly for all that he’s sacrificed in order to play for the Rangers. But I’ll remind you, in March 2007, Young willingly signed an extension with the Rangers. He could have moved on after six straight years of finishing 3rd or 4th in the AL West and one position change, but he chose to stay. For a lot of money. He really doesn’t need or deserve sympathy.

      • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 6:17 PM

        Scatterbrian, perhaps you should reread my comment. When Young was asked to move positions that improved the team, he did so. Which I stated was where my loyalties lay. But later, the acquisition of Beltre, in lieu of a much more needed starter, brought in to question, both the team’s best interest and how it was being described to Young
        It is easy to attack generalizations, because there are always exceptions. The entire statistical universe is dependent on generalizations. It is the anomaly that is abhorred. But without generalizations it is difficult to draw intelligent conclusions. So when I say Young sure looks like a second baseman to me, it is based on; 1) Where he originally played when he first came to the Rangers, when there was little competition. 2) The physical build of the vast majority of other second basemen in the NL 3) Michael Young’s build and athletic prowess. 4) The consensus of hundreds of scouts and talent evaluators who recognize the required skills necessary to perform well in the Major Leagues.
        All these factors lead to the general conclusion that Michael Young’s most ideal position would be Second Base. Of, course there are players who have similar characteristics that defy the logic; one can argue that Michael Young has been one of those. I believe the uproar that I read revolves around a prevailing attitude that the conventional wisdom of old school baseball has been proven to be very wrong in a number of areas by sabermetric calculations. But this is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. No one is more vocally critical of the status quo, than me. The name of one of my fanasy teams for years is Conventional Wisdom Seldom Is. It is my mantra, but I don’t let it blind me.
        At 34 years of age, the only everyday position Young can handle is second base. He would be markedly better than any number of second basemen employed by current teams, but the Rangers are not one of those. It would behoove both if he played elsewhere.

      • scatterbrian - Feb 9, 2011 at 7:14 PM

        There’s nothing wrong with my reading comprehension, I just don’t agree with you.

      • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 9:02 PM

        No problem with that, I certainly can appreciate an opinion that thinks less of his 2B abilities than I do. Time will tell.

  5. Jonny 5 - Feb 9, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    Man, The Geico commercial really popularized the term “Jackwagon”. Oh yeah, the article, ummm, I think I’m kind of with Hindman on this, just not as harshly. I don’t like all this pretend anger journalists use against people they don’t know.

  6. bringpudgebacktotx - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:20 PM

    As a Rangers fan, I am kind of partial to Michael Young. I, however, like to play the devil’s advocate and look at both sides of the fence.

    On one hand, he has been in the infield for us for 10 years. He works hard, and he is a good leader in the clubhouse. The team dynamics are certainly going to change when he leaves. I think that a lot of Rangers fans feel that the only way to take the Rangers back to the World Series is to keep the original group intact. Cliff is already gone.. things are changing in Arlington. Maybe the front office wasn’t totally open with Michael. Only Daniels, Ryan, and Young know what was being said behind closed doors. At this point, it is only speculation and here-say.

    If I was Michael Young and getting paid $16 million a year to swing a bat every 3 innings and fill in in the infield when needed, I would zip it and be happy that I am getting paid at all to do something I love. Yes, I understand he wants to play everyday in the infield. Yes, I understand he is still young-ish. But his numbers have declined and his defense was less than stellar last year. And as a ‘captain’, he didn’t show up when the Rangers needed in the absolute most.. as a solid #2 hitter on the biggest stage in Major League Baseball.

    I hope Michael ends up in a place where he gets to play and be happy. I hope someone picks up his contract and we get some decent pitching in Arlington. Maybe that’s what we should be focusing on.. good pitching. I’m not sure why we signed Beltre or Napoli when we have 1.. maybe 2 dependable starters. This should be an interesting season in Texas…

    • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      It is both easy to say, and presumably do, what you suggest, take the money, ride the pine, and like it. But not everyone is so thusly wired. It wasn’t until it became glaringly obvious, that the Rangers were no longer including Young in their everyday plans that he seriously balked. He believes he is an starting middle infielder, as mentioned above, most likely suited as a 2B, and so do a number of other teams. Most of us don’t take kindly being told we are no longer wanted. Maybe he also has also developed a strong desire to prove the Rangers wrong. I believe their is merit to that contention.

      • spudchukar - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:39 PM

        oops, there.

      • scatterbrian - Feb 9, 2011 at 5:32 PM

        You do way too much “thinking” on behalf of Michael Young.

  7. xmatt0926x - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Hindman is right on. This is a classic case of a player being told for so long that he is much more than he really is and then him finallky starting to believe it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting what you want. We all hope to have our own self-interests given consideration but this guy acts like he’s being nailed to the cross (at $15 million/year). As someone else already mentioned, people should immeadiately stop using the phrase “jackwagon”. It’s tired and played out. Ohh…and along these lines please everyone stop saying “really?” at the end of your sentence when you are questioning something somebody does or says. Please stop now!!

    • paperlions - Feb 9, 2011 at 3:31 PM

      Seriously?

  8. proudlycanadian - Feb 9, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Michael Young and cash for Juan Rivera?

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