The most significant storyline of the Texas Rangers' predominantly lethargic off-season has, by all indications, anticlimactically culminated in the ending that most astute observers foresaw from the outset of this major embroilment between employer and employee -- one that had been conceived nearly a month prior, but was only summoned to the forefront of the baseball world earlier this week.
And, fittingly enough, it's the ending that makes the most sense for all parties involved.
According to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, Michael Young -- the central figure in this modern-day hardball drama -- has unilaterally rescinded his standing trade request and has "reluctantly" agreed to move to third base for the 2009 regular season and beyond, effectively clearing room at his former stead for the eventual (and possibly imminent) installation of presumptive franchise shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Although Young unquestionably remains frustrated with the organization's decision to transition him into a full-time role at the hot corner (and notably made no attempts to conceal his true feelings on the matter during a Thursday afternoon press gathering, bluntly stating that he "[doesn't] think this is the time for [him] to switch positions"), he emphatically cited his responsibility to his teammates and to a divided fan base as reasons why he felt he needed to embrace his new role and put the controversy to rest:
"After some careful consideration over the last month and in an effort not to let this thing drag out and move forward to the task at hand -- which is winning baseball games -- I decided to put an end to this and start bearing down and playing third base."[...] "They wanted me to play third base and I didn't want this to drag on. I don't want my focus to be on anything but being ready for spring training. I'm focused on having a big year and the last thing I wanted to do was have anything take away from that."
While it seems relatively safe to surmise that Young and general manager Jon Daniels are not presently on speaking terms after the latter committed what the former perceived as an act of disrespect last month (that is, Daniels reportedly "requesting" that Young move to third base without affording him the option of staying put at shortstop), club president Nolan Ryan evidently played a pivotal role in assuaging Young's anger and reconciling a dispute that appeared to be hopelessly deadlocked just days before:
"I just visited with him about his role with our ballclub and how important he was to our ballclub," Ryan said. "He's obviously the leader of our team, and we didn't want to have a situation where it wasn't going to work out for the ballclub or for him. I felt like we needed to resolve it."
Conforming to the defensive subtleties of third base will require immense patience and diligent practice on Young's end, and Elvis Andrus's successful attainment of the starting shortstop job, though seemingly probable at this point, remains anything but guaranteed. To that end, Young has publicly vowed to do everything he can to facilitate the emergence of his 20-year-old protégé into a top-flight major league shortstop -- a process that even the most optimistic of Rangers fans agree will take time to complete, but also has the potential to be so incredibly rewarding.
One of the many excellent quotes culled by Richard Durrett of the Dallas Morning News (and also Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) was a response to the question of whether or not Young felt the Rangers were poised to become legitimate playoff contenders soon, which consequently elicited the following reply: "I think as I go forward, I have to believe this team is ready to win. This is something we're committed to doing now. I'm going to go out there thinking we're ready to win."
Shameless pandering? Doubtful. Not from Young, who probably is just as confident in this ballclub's ability to win lots of games (and soon) as he is in his ability to play shortstop effectively. For both Young and the franchise at large, the goal is now ensuring that the on-field face of Texas Rangers baseball productively reroutes his frustration and taps into his enormous competitive drive en route to becoming the veteran stalwart and leader that this organization, in light of its present glaring deficiencies at the hot corner, so desperately needs at third base.
This is going to be one interesting season.