Monday, September 19, 2011
Michael Young 'never wanted to leave'
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Michael Young insists he never really wanted to leave Texas, even after requesting a trade last winter.
So when the Rangers' longest-tenured player stayed in Texas, he stayed Young and is having one of the best seasons in his career.
"It's one of the best trades that never happened," teammate David Murphy said.
The 34-year-old Young has remained a steady presence for the Rangers as they close in on another AL West title. He already has more than 100 RBIs and is only two hits shy of his sixth 200-hit season while hitting .331. That matches his career best and was tied for second in the AL on Monday, the team's last day off in the regular season.
"I don't consider this to be any different than my other years. All I care about is being healthy and being consistent," said Young, a .303 career hitter in his 11th season. "Every year you might find one season that's maybe slightly below my norm, another season might be slightly above it, but I like to think I'm always the same guy."
Even when having a new role and changing positions again.
Young became primarily a designated hitter and utility infielder after the Rangers this winter signed All-Star and Gold Glove-winning third baseman Adrian Beltre and then traded for catcher Mike Napoli.
Napoli also was a DH and first baseman, the spots Texas had planned for Young after he played third base the past two seasons. The Rangers showed interest, too, in potential DHs Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez before getting Napoli.
The trade request by Young came in the weeks before spring training, and the Rangers tried to accommodate him in the aftermath of their first World Series.
When no deal happened, Young reported to Arizona on time and put his focus on the field. He told teammates he wouldn't be a distraction and said he was preparing to have the best season he could, just like he always has.
"I have really no desire to revisit anything that happened over the winter," Young said. "But I never wanted to leave. I always wanted to be here. My teammates know that."
Reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton said it was hard to even consider that Young might not be around.
"He's just a professional's professional. He goes about his business, he's a leader in the clubhouse," Hamilton said during the team's last homestand. "It just shows you his talent level, capable of playing pretty much any position, and still getting the job done at the plate. So it's been fun to watch."
Young has started a team-high 151 of the Rangers' 153 games. While there have been 68 games as the DH, he has started 42 of the last 52 in the field during a stretch when Beltre missed six weeks with a strained left hamstring before coming back at the start of September. Young has started 38 games at third base, 13 at second and 32 at first -- a position he had never played at any level, not even Little League, before working there this spring.
Even while playing different spots in the field, nothing has changed at the plate for the Rangers' career hits leader -- at 2,046 and counting. He also has only 78 strikeouts this season, a career low in 599 at-bats. He won the AL batting title in 2005 with a .331 average.
But Young is taking no extra satisfaction in having success this season in a different situation.
"Not at all, none," he said. "No person or no situation can take me to a place I'm already at. I mean, either you're motivated or you're not. If you're relying on other people or a particular scenario to motivate you, you're probably in the wrong business. I'm motivated by winning and by playing well, simple as that."
And the Rangers (88-65) are finally winning after so many seasons of last-place finishes without ever winning a playoff series before last year.
Before Texas won the AL West title and got to the World Series a year ago, Young had played 1,508 regular-season games without getting into the playoffs. That was the second-longest streak for an active player.
Young was a second baseman when he became a starter for Texas in 2001, then switched to shortstop after Alex Rodriguez was traded in 2004 and was an All-Star five consecutive seasons. The Rangers moved Young to third base two years ago when shortstop Elvis Andrus was promoted from Double-A.
This time, Young had to prepare for multiple positions and not always being on the field.
"It further emphasizes how mentally tough he is," Murphy said. "He's going to be a leader and he's always going to be a team guy. ... Bottom line is he wants to win."
Regardless of which glove he needs, or if he only needs his bat, Young has gotten comfortable enough in his role that manager Ron Washington no longer has to give him a heads-up about where he will play any particular game.
"I'll check the lineup and I'll be fine," Young said.
"He's understanding now that he can play every single one of those positions so it doesn't faze him," Washington said. "It doesn't matter where I put him in that lineup, he delivers and we needed him to step up in the fourth spot when Beltre was down, and he didn't miss a beat. He just stepped up and kept doing what he do. He didn't change his approach, didn't change his style, kept doing what he does, and that's swing the bat and help us win."