Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Young paying steep price for incident

By Buster Olney
ESPN The Magazine

Delmon Young probably could have been in the big leagues by mid-June, playing the summer game in Comerica Park or Citizens Bank Park, Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, beginning what most scouts believe will be a prolific career.

Instead, Young will be at the extended spring training program of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for most of the next 41 days, taking batting practice and perhaps participating in intrasquad games, but nothing real. Nobody hits .300 or .400 in extended spring games because nobody really keeps track, officially.

Young has been given an appropriate 50-game sentence to baseball purgatory, and whether he ever goes back there, after his release, depends entirely on how Young conducts himself as he returns.

Young is young and made a mistake, but nobody has ever seen a mistake like his, from anyone old or young. After being ejected from a Triple-A game on April 26, Young turned and threw a bat at the umpire -- a shocking act made worse by the velocity at which he fired the bat. A few inches higher and Young could've seriously injured the umpire.

The suspension will cost Young, who earns a salary of $500,000 this year, about $145,000. He'll be doing some community service, at least 50 hours, and for the rest of his career he'll hear taunts from the stands about his bat-throwing incident.

Furthermore, Young probably will lose time in the big leagues that he'll likely never get back. Oh, sure, he'll get to the majors one day, maybe in August or September, but the young slugger who once predicted he would be in the big leagues as a 19-year-old almost certainly won't be there in June or July.

If he has another similar incident, Young probably would face at least a yearlong suspension, perhaps longer. He might be something of a marked man now, among umpires, among teammates, among coaches, some of whom will assume that Young could be a problem.

He must absorb all of this and grow from the experience; and, quite frankly, he should feel lucky he'll get to play at all this summer, whether at a minor league complex or a major league park.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.