[Editor's note: This piece originally ran last Friday afternoon, but I figured it deserved eyeballs in light of what transpired here last week ... and if you're sick of Michael Young talk, there's more front-page content dropping around 12-1 p.m. -J]
Evan Grant and I had a chat early this morning about our respective assessments of the Michael Young embroglio (which were pitted against one-another by Craig Calcaterra on the NBC Sports baseball blog Hardlball Talk) and I wanted to share some of the issues we kicked around.
Contrary to what Evan suggested during his appearance on Rangers Fan Radio the other day, I did not cite Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano or Cal Ripken as examples of veterans who switched positions to make the club better. He apologized for that error. I accepted and apologized to him for (unwittingly) making it seem as if I was directly responding to his letter when I wrote my post (I had not read it yet when I wrote my piece and was not aware of it until Jason Parks drew my attention to it right after I posted my diatribe).
So yeah, old friends and confidants can mend fences pretty quickly if they want to do so.
To be clear: I did mention Rodriguez and Soriano in my piece, but not to support the argument that better players than Young have willingly switched positions to make the club better. I used other players as examples of that. I cited them as examples of the sorts of difficult personalities the local press had to deal with which, Evan agreed, made Michael all the more appealing to the local media contingent.
Evan's perspective, mostly for the better and perhaps in some ways for the worse, is informed by the fact that he's in the clubhouse every day and knows Michael Young very, very well. This, of course, allows him to have insight to issues and background of the Young / Daniels relationship that I do not have.
Having had a brief experience with a press pass and a watered down version of that sort of access, I know how valuable that can be. For better or worse, I do not have that anymore (and, obviously, never will).
Personally, I thought that Evan's "open letter" regarding the situation was extremely illuminating and told him so. He detailed a background on the history of the Young / Daniels relationship that I did not know, and few did. The trust Evan has developed in the clubhouse over the years allows him to get that kind of access and information and we are all the better for it.
Where I think the closeness of a respected beat writer like Evan to the club can be a bit of a problem, as I explained in great detail in my post, is that it leads to a situation where objectivity is hard to maintain and personal fondness, admiration and respect for the personality gets in the way of a truly objective evaluation of the player's weaknesses. I think that Evan's comparison of Young to Staubach and Aikman (and his suggestion that they ought to build him a statue at the Ballpark) is a good example of just how completely out of whack the local media's love for Young has become over the years.
Yet, it's sort of baffling to me that our two pieces were seen as polar opposites in the way they were by most people. His was seen as pro-Young and mine was seen as pro-Rangers. Neither is terribly accurate.
I think it is clear that we agree that both the club and Young deserve blame for finding themselves in this position, but for different reasons. He thinks the Rangers are to blame because they owed Young a lot more disclosure about what has been going on and I think the Rangers are to blame because, beginning with his contract and continuing with their promotion of him as the "Face of the Franchise" they have contributed to Young developing a sense of entitlement regardless of his performance on the field. I also blame the media for creating and promoting an image of Young as a martyr that is inaccurate and undeserved (and ultimately, deleterious to Young himself).
We both agree that the size of Young's contract is irrelevant to what he should do right now.
Neither of us maintains that since he's being paid so much, he ought to "shut up and show up." If that's all I had to say, I wouldn't have said anything at all. To me, the relevance of Young's salary is limited to him developing a ridiculously bloated self image and sense of entitlement as well as the inability of the club to trade him for something of value.
I do think Young should shut up and play, not because of his contract, but because it would be in the best interest of the ballclub. Again: George Brett did it, Pete Rose did it, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount did it. An MLB executive sent me an e-mail the other day pointing out some other great examples of players who have sacrificed position because it was -- in their GM's opinion -- in the best interests of the ballclub. Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Joe Torre, Mickey Mantle, Ernie Banks, Yogi Berra and Jackie Robinson were all asked to move around to either accommodate younger players or to hide their growing defensive limitations.
Evan strongly disputes this issue, effectively stating that it is too old school and that players today don't feel that way anymore. He points out that Ripken's move to third was met with much whining and that Soriano's move to the outfield was accomplished under threat of physical harm from Frank Robinson, etc.
Moreover, I think that Young should accept whatever role the club hands him this year because he ought to know by now that Daniels, Ryan and Washington are committed to using their personnel resources as effectively as possible. They have proven that if you produce, you'll play no matter what is or isn't on your resume (Ogando) and if you don't produce, you'll be replaced (Davis, Garko, Smoak, Cantu, Moreland) or demoted (Francisco). They did a great job of using David Murphy in the most effective way possible last year even though he didn't have a regular gig. If Young produces offensively, he'll get his at-bats. And he'll certainly be on a longer leash than anyone else in the clubhouse if and when he struggles.
We both agree that it is in the best interests of the club for them to mend fences and get on with business since there's no way in hell that Daniels will be able to find anything of value for Young under these circumstances (timing, contract, etc.).
I think it's clear that Evan believes that once cleats hit the sidewalks in Surprise with Michael Young sporting a Rangers jersey, things will quickly get back to normal and he'll resume his role as clubhouse leader. I wonder if that's really possible, all things considered. But I certainly defer to Evan on this point. He would probably know better than anyone not named Washington or Kinsler.
This is an interesting time in Rangers history, to be sure. All of us who have followed the club closely and reported on or written about them on a regular basis and watched closely as Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan have successfully changed all of the paradigms about how to build and run and organization find our heads spinning in light of these recent developments. Some of us have strong opinions, some don't know what to think, and some change their minds on a daily basis.
If there's one valuable thing I have learned over the past decade it's that there's always a helluva lot going on that nobody in the media, quasi-media, blogosphere or fandom can possibly know and much of that will never be known. I don't presume to know what the Rangers should do now. I make my opinions based upon the info available to me, but I'm aware that there's a lot more to the story than I or anyone else will ever know.
I am not backing off of my position on this, however. I feel very strongly that Michael Young is acting like an absolute fool right now. His sense of entitlement is way out of line and it infuriates me. I blame the Rangers and the local media for encouraging him to think this way about himself. I don't care that all of the greats that I mentioned who have made these kinds of sacrifices for the betterment of their ballclubs did so ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago. If you want to be held in the same regard that folks in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa hold George Brett (e.g. me, as an angry young man in central Nebraska) or folks in Milwaukee hold Robin Yount and Paul Molitor (e.g. my friend Bob Sturm as a pleasant young man in Wisconsin) -- and it seems to me that Young does want to be thought of as being in a class with those guys -- then this is what you do. You don't act like a petulant adolescent who wants to abandon his organization at such a critical moment in it's history.
Anyway, I wanted to clear some things up about the past couple of days and share with you how two old friends agreed to disagree while possibly teaching one-another at least a little something along the way.