Michael Young makes right call
Difficult as it may have been, moving on from Rangers was best for both parties
Saturday's decision couldn't have been an easy one for Michael Young.
The Dalllas-Fort Worth area is all his children know. Leaving home -- especially a place that's been home for more than a dozen years -- is difficult.
But Young made the right call for his career. He agreed to waive his no-trade clause and head to Philadelphia, according to sources, ending his tenure in the only place he has ever played in the big leagues.
The 36-year-old infielder and designated hitter was likely to have a bench role in Texas in 2013. There are too many young players and not enough places to play them. Jurickson Profar appears ready for a regular job, Mike Olt could end up needing some at-bats, and manager Ron Washington may have to use the DH to be sure that Nelson Cruz and David Murphy get additional chances to contribute.
Add it up and Young was getting squeezed out of his current role, one he was forced to accept two years ago when the club signed Adrian Beltre to be its third baseman.
Young has moved around a lot in his Texas career. He started at second base and moved over to shortstop to make room for Alfonso Soriano in 2004. He won a Gold Glove at shortstop in 2008 and was then asked to shift to third base so Elvis Andrus could make his big league debut and play regularly. Two years later, Young was out of a regular infield job.
Now, he gets one back.
Young will play third base in Philadelphia and have a chance to prove he can bounce back from one of the worst seasons of his career. He hit .277, his lowest batting average since his first full season in the big leagues in 2002. The clutch hitting that was a hallmark of his résumé wasn't there on a consistent basis. His power numbers also dropped. His eight homers were the fewest of his career, and he had just 67 RBIs in 156 games, his fewest since 2002.
Mike Trout's MVP candidacy had WAR on the brains of the baseball world. Young's WAR was one of the lowest for any regular player in the league.
But Washington stuck by Young despite his struggles in May, June, July and August. Young had his best month in September, though it wasn't enough to keep the Rangers from collapsing down the stretch, blowing a five-game division lead with nine games to play.
By leaving, Young not only gets to play every day for a team that has hopes of winning a World Series -- just like the one he's departing in Texas -- but the Rangers also free up that valuable playing time for younger players who are poised to make a difference in the future of the club. They also free up some of the $16 million that Young is owed. Perhaps that's money that can be used to entice Zack Greinke or get Josh Hamilton back to Texas.
Young was a huge part of that. He didn't lead the Rangers with any rah-rah tactics. That's just not his style. When he needed to speak up in team meetings, he did. One player a few years ago said that Young's best quality was knowing when not to speak.
He wouldn't embarrass a teammate publicly, but Young wouldn't hesitate to pull someone aside and let him know it was time to get going. Canvas the Rangers' clubhouse and you'll hear stories of players who had one-on-one chats with Young, getting advice on how to be a better player and what was expected of them. It's a fun group, but one that knows when to be serious and professional. It's a group that loves winning. Sounds a lot like Young, doesn't it?
That's the other thing he'll bring with him to Philadelphia, besides a burning desire to prove that 2012 was just one down year and that he is capable of returning to form.
Young's career in Texas was a memorable one. His name will stay in the record books for a long time. He is the franchise leader in hits, games, runs, at-bats and a slew of other categories.
It's just a shame that Young doesn't leave with a championship. He put up with the last-place finishes and the "wait until next year" hopes for a long time before tasting the postseason. (He had the second-longest active streak of games played without a playoff appearance before the 2010 ALDS). He came tantalizingly close in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. It just didn't happen.
Still, this is the right time for Young and the Rangers to part ways. He gets the opportunity to do what he loves most -- play in the infield every day -- and the Rangers make room for others in their lineup.
He made the right choice. That doesn't mean it was an easy one.