I know there are some Texas Rangers fans pleased today that the club was able to move a player that declined in 2012 – by his lofty standards – and could possibly block the progress of some of the younger talent on the team.
But while Michael Young's trade to the Phillies makes sense for him and for the Rangers, I don’t find it a happy day. I just don’t.
I’m glad that Young will get a chance to play more in Philadelphia. I still think he’s a solid player that has something left, if given another opportunity. You don’t hit that well for that long without having the ability to bounce back from a rough season. He may not hit .338 again, like he did in 2011, but he can contribute to a winning ballclub and is certainly capable of producing more runs in 2013 than he did in 2012.
No, he didn’t play up to his paygrade in 2012. You expect $16 million players to do more than hit eight homers and drive in 67 runs, especially when they aren’t regulars in the field. He struggled defensively as he got some time at first, second, third and shortstop. The bottom line: There just wasn't room for him in Texas anymore.
But it’s going to be very strange to walk into the Rangers’ clubhouse in Surprise, Ariz., and not see Young at his locker right by the players’ entrance. Or to see someone else occupying his corner spot in the club’s Arlington home.
There was a lot of chatter on blogs and twitter that the media “went easy” on Young at times because of how much we liked and respected him. I don’t think that’s completely fair, but the assertion that he was liked and respected by the media is absolutely accurate.
We knew that no matter how rough a loss might have been or how quickly the club had to scoot to the next city on the road that Young would make time to speak to us. Let’s face it: It’s a pain to constantly answer questions – many of them the same questions – nearly every day during a six-month season. Young did it and managed to rarely seem like it frustrated or bothered him. He knew that as part of his leadership role on the team, he was a spokesman in that room. He did it well.
Young’s not the rah-rah type (though he can pop champagne corks and douse teammates with bubbly after playoff series wins with the best of them), but leads by example. That doesn’t mean he won’t say something when needed. Ask most of his teammates, especially the younger ones that are now regulars on the squad, about some of the lengthy chats they had with Young. He wasn’t one to embarrass players in front of others, but he’d get his point across when he had to.
He’s had a lot of amazing moments in Texas. He was the All-Star MVP in 2006 with a typically clutch triple in the AL’s final at-bat to push across the winning run. He was mobbed at third base when the club clinched its first division title since 1999. He won a batting title in 2005, tipping his cap near the end of the final regular season game to the fans that showed up to pay tribute. He also claimed a Gold Glove in 2008. And, last year aside, he just kept hitting and hitting.
He moved positions three times and, while he didn’t always agree with where he was playing, he did his job and he did it well.
Remember the day during spring training in 2010 when manager Ron Washington told his team about his failed drug test? The first player to stand up and back the skipper: Young. His teammates followed and they went on to the club’s first World Series later that season.
Young played through pain, appearing in at least 156 games in all but one of his 11 full seasons in the big leagues (that lone exception was because of a strained hamstring in 2009). He didn’t care where he hit in the order, just that he was in the lineup. His managers knew they could count on him to show up and give it everything he had, no matter what was happening on or off the field.
He leaves Texas as one of the greatest Rangers of all time. He also leaves as one of the good guys. He didn’t agree with everything I wrote or said and would, at times, let me know about it, giving me a chance to explain my side. And he would patiently answer my questions about the game itself as I tried to understand what a player goes through at the plate and what adjustments need to be made. He taught me a lot.
I’ve never covered a Rangers team that didn’t have Young on it. That’s going to be very different.
I know he made the right call in going to Philadelphia and that the Rangers are picking the right time to move on. I hope he has a terrific season and gets a chance to make another postseason run.
He’ll be missed.