Saturday, August 31, 2013
Young trade has to do with intangibles
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- The minute he walked out of the Dodgers' interview room, where he discussed the trade for veteran infielder Michael Young on Saturday night, general manager Ned Colletti reached Young on his cellphone.
Colletti said Young understood he won't be walking into the kind of role he had in Philadelphia, where he has had more than 500 plate appearances, or that he had in Texas, where he was the face of the franchise.
Colletti said Young was willing to accept a lesser role for a third crack at a World Series title.
Michael Young's trade to the Dodgers brings L.A. another veteran presence with playoff experience and leadership skills in the clubhouse.
"He could have vetoed the whole thing," Colletti said.
The Dodgers aren't interested in a move that could risk changing their direction. When you're coming off the best calendar month (23-6) in Los Angeles franchise history, when you have made up 20 games in the standings in less than 10 weeks, radical change really doesn't jump out as a good idea.
For a team that almost never loses, the Dodgers have been pretty busy making changes. They've added relievers Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol, and starting pitcher Edinson Volquez. Now they add Young despite the fact that Young's .722 OPS is identical to that of their starting third baseman, Juan Uribe, and that Young isn't nearly the defender Uribe is.
It wasn't Colletti's intention to upset the apple cart, just to add a little more sustenance to the Dodgers' moveable feast. It's about depth. It's about competition. It's about experience.
"I kept it in the back of my mind for a while, because I didn't want to disrupt what we have going on here," Colletti said. "I think the room is great."
Of course, you could argue, then why do it?
If you want to understand why the Dodgers traded for Young, think back to January and February. Manager Don Mattingly was still reaching out to Scott Rolen to see if he could talk him into coming out of retirement. Mattingly badly wanted a player with a reputation for leadership and for getting dirty and playing through pain.
Mattingly and Colletti are big believers in concepts like leadership and a winning pedigree, though it may open them up to mockery from the statistically-minded set.
The hope is that Young will be one more veteran to help set the right tone for a deep run in October. Young has played 34 postseason games and 12 World Series games. Young joins Uribe, Wilson, Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto as Dodgers who have competed in a World Series. The rest of the Dodgers roster is skimpy on experience in dealing with October pressure.
Young, too, we should remember, is the son of a Mexican-American mother who is proud of his roots and can communicate in Spanish. The Dodgers no doubt figured he would be another positive example for Yasiel Puig as they attempt to steer Puig's prodigious talents in the right direction.
Now, Puig has Young, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis and Hanley Ramirez as workplace role models. Those are guys who don't come off the field easily and who rarely relent in their approach or intensity.
So, the move probably isn't a major risk. If it doesn't work out, it will only have cost one of the richest teams in baseball $1 million, a questionable pitching prospect and a few phone calls. If it gains them what they're after, nobody's going to remember any of those costs by the end of October.