The drama between Michael Young and the Texas Rangers continues. Young feels like he's been misled and demands a trade. The Rangers feel like they can move on without him. Who's right and who's wrong?
Let's start with something we can all agree on: Michael Young has been a true professional in every sense of the word. He's changed positions, he's a stand-up guy in front of us in the media, he's been consistently productive on offense. Young has never had a legal issue, or any kind of off-the-field issue that would tarnish his reputation. So keep this in mind as you read the next few paragraphs, because an unbiased evaluation can sound like criticism, and I wanted to put that positioning statement out there first. As far as we know him, Michael Young is a good guy and a very good baseball player.
Now, with that said, what does it mean that Young has been the "face of the franchise?" Until this year, it's been a losing franchise, a nondescript franchise, and a forgotten franchise, at least on the national level. And he hasn't always been the best player on the Rangers -- Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Josh Hamilton have alternately held that title. Young happens to have been here longer.
Young has been the face of the franchise by default. It's like the Tampa Bay Rays retiring Wade Boggs' jersey -- they wanted to retire a number just like all the other teams do, and they had to do it with someone. But in 100 years when the Rays have some history behind them, Boggs' inclusion will seem ridiculous. He played two forgettable seasons with the Rays. But they had to have someone.
That's kind of like Young. Is he a superstar? Of course not. He's been an all-star six times, but a few of those came when he was the only Ranger represented, and every team gets an all-star. Looking at baseball-reference.com, the three players to whom Young is most similar at his age are Ray Durham, Craig Biggio, and Jay Bell. Good players all, but not great. In 11 seasons, he has led the league in exactly three offensive categories: batting average in 2005 (.331), hits in 2005 (221), and games played in 2006 (162).
Again, none of this is to diminish what Young has done, it's just to clarify what he is. If he's been put on a higher pedestal by Ranger fans and by members of the media, it's not his fault. He has put together a rock-solid career to this point, but nothing spectacular.
What is spectacular is his contract: he has three years left at $48 million dollars ($16 per year). And when that gets introduced into the argument of who's right or who's wrong (Young or the Rangers), it becomes a big factor. Even if Young were to have his role diminished to part-time designated hitter (which would not have been a sure thing), how can he complain when he's going to make $48 million dollars over the next three seasons? On the other hand, here's a guy who, as a professional athlete, has a naturally big ego and a lot of self-confidence, but has also been humble enough to switch positions throughout his career to cater to his team's needs.
At the end of the day, if I'm a Rangers fan, what I want from my front office is to do what they're doing now -- make the tough decisions, even if they are potentially unpopular. Again, Young is and has been a true professional, and it will be a shame when he leaves the Rangers. But good organizations are able to take the emotion out of it and make decisions based on logic and statistics and other quantifiable things. Bad organizations make desperate moves, like sign Alex Rodriguez for $250 million because they want to make a splash, or sign Chan Ho Park for $65 million because they really need pitching (remember who did that?). Good organizations make good decisions, regardless of hurt feelings, and the Rangers appear to be a good one.