RANGERS HALL OF FAME: MICHAEL YOUNG
When I first started writing here at SDI, I used a pen name – Aaron Mathews (Hank and Eddie, of course). At the time I thought I had good reasons for it but now, in hindsight, it just seems silly. So, I’m glad to be my own self again. And many thanks to Billy Casey for bringing me aboard in the first place.
You may already know that I’ve been writing “throwback” pieces, trying to educate you young whippersnappers about the early years of Our Favorite Team. When Patrick Despain took over SDI this week, he asked if I would take on a specific project – profiles of the Rangers Hall of Fame members.
I readily agreed and this is the first one. Typical of my warped outlook, I want to write about a guy who’s not actually in the hall yet, but there’s no better place to start than Michael Young.
He had a 14-year big league career, 13 with the Rangers. Today, he’s a special assistant to General Manager Jon Daniels. It wasn’t all that long ago that such a position would have been considered impossible – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Young had an excellent Rangers career except for the very, very end. He led the American League in hits and batting average in 2005. He won a Gold Glove in 2008. He earned AL Most Valuable Player votes in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2011. He was named to seven All-Star Games.
For the Rangers specifically, here’s where he ranks all-time:
-Games played, 1,823
-Plate appearances, 8,047
-Total bases, 3,286
-Sac flies, 70
-Extra-base hits, 647
-Home runs, 177
-Stolen base percentage, 74.79%
-Career batting average, .301
He hit .300 or better seven times, a club record. He played first, second, third, short and DH, and contributed meaningfully at each position. He was also a force for good in the clubhouse.
Because of that respect in “the room,” some of the sportswriters dubbed him the “Face Of The Franchise.” It may have been intended as sarcasm but, frankly, it was the truth. This was best evidenced in 2010, the year of the Rangers’ first trip to the World Series, when word got out that manager Ron Washington had used cocaine.
Wash told his players, privately, about his breach, and Young was the first to stand up and express his support. Then, he led the entire team into the room filled with media, where the players stood in the back, silently supporting their leader. Young earned Wash’s undying loyalty that day.
Young had come to Texas from Toronto at the 2000 trade deadline, as a 23-year-old second baseman. That was his primary position until 2004, when the club asked if he would move to short to make room for Alfonso Soriano, acquired from the Yankees. Which he did.
Then, after the 2008 season – without asking – the team decided to slide Young to third to make room for rookie shortstop Elvis Andrus. Young got annoyed, asked for a trade, changed his mind, played third base and hit .322 in 2009.
Just two years later, after the 2010 season, the Rangers were working to sign free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and asked Young to become a DH and utility infielder. He said he’d rather not, but the team signed Beltre anyway and that was the end of amicable relations between Young and the front office.
In 2012, although Young was struggling at the plate and in the field, Washington put him in the lineup for 156 games. His SLG fell to .370 and his wRC dropped to 79, both 10-year worsts. He grounded into 26 double plays and earned negative fWAR of -2.0, both of which were the second worst marks in baseball. After the season ended, Young agreed to a trade to the Phillies, who sent him on to Los Angeles later that season for the Dodgers’ August playoff run.
Washington was sad to see him leave. “This is a very tough situation,” he said. “He has always been my go-to guy in my six years here. He has always done a lot for me.”
Young was miffed. He said he had been “misled” and “manipulated, and had “no relationship” with the front office. But even though things were frosty on the surface, apparently there still was an underlying layer of respect for Young, probably because of his commitment to helping new players.
“When I first came up, my first few days of spring training, I was super uncomfortable, but he made it easier,” Andrus said. “He came to me, told me that there was nothing wrong with me, what happened with him wasn’t about me, it was between him and the team. That let me be myself.”
Beltre recalled, “The last thing I needed to get done when we had agreed to a contract was, I needed for him to let me know that it was OK. We all knew what the situation was and I was not going to be comfortable coming here if he wasn’t comfortable with it, too. He made it really easy for me. He said, ‘We need you here to win.’”
Young, upon hearing those remarks, dryly commented, “I think I’m getting too much credit for that. Everyone knows I didn’t go quietly.”
He didn’t come back quietly, either. In February 2014 he returned to announce he would retire as a Ranger. Nine months later, he and Daniels sat side-by-side, before microphones and media, to announce Young’s new duties as assistant to the GM. Apparently the bridge had been rebuilt some months before, according to JD:
“We had a pretty unique and very good relationship before the situation that was well-documented,” Daniels said. “We communicated after he made the playoffs (with the Dodgers). We saw each other … and had a chance to talk. But more than anything, it was time and being away from it that helped.”
Today, Young consults on player acquisition and development, among other duties, and he was part of the manager search that brought Jeff Banister to the team. The bond between Daniels and Young, forged as the Rangers went from perennial patsies to World Series contenders, is strong again.
Asked to recall the highlight of his career, Young said, “The first year we went to the World Series, the whole 2010 season. That wasn’t our best team, next year was the best, but that 2010 season – I’d never seen red and blue Rangers hats all over town like that. Having been here for ten years, seeing what was and what it had become, being right in the middle of that was … damn, it was a lot of fun.”
Yes. Yes, it was.
Thanks for all the memories, sweet and bitter, Michael Young, the only Rangers Hall of Fame member who was chosen by acclamation. And deservedly so.
On July 30, Young will officially become the 20th member of the Rangers Hall, during a pre-game induction ceremony at Globe Life Park.
Editor’s note: This article contains material downloaded from baseball-reference.com, FanGraphs.com, mlb.com, dallasnews.com, wfaa.com and espn.com.