As baseball-invested people of all sorts -- the emotionally drained Rangers fan, the curiosity-driven blogosphere wanderer, the proselytizing columnist, and so on -- hold forth on the Michael Young imbroglio, and vigorously debate the merits and (many?) flaws in his hardline position against the ballclub, a rather significant question continues to fly freely and largely undetected: if the Rangers reciprocate Young's stubbornness by digging their own heels into the dirt, and outright refuse to accept a team-unfriendly deal, who the hell is going to want Young? And perhaps even more significantly, how do things end up playing out if they can't (or won't) trade Young?
The not-so-secret dirty little secret about the Young-approved eight-team list of possible landing spots is that virtually every one of those teams either (a) can't furnish the infield playing time that Young so desperately covets (e.g. Yankees), (b) can't afford to assume the salary commitment that would still exist even with the benefit of a generous cash subsidy (e.g. Padres), or (c) simply don't appear to want him for one good reason or another (Astros, Twins, Cardinals); meanwhile, the Dodgers and Angels continue to linger around on the periphery, and I suppose something could conceivably still happen there, but the point is that with Young's hottest pursuer (Rockies) now reportedly out of the mix, the likelihood of him being dealt without being more amenable to other possibilities is falling fast, to say the least.
So, in the event that the Rangers tell Young something to the effect of "we're not trading you, but we're also not expanding your role beyond that which we already laid out for you, so get over it," I'm seeing one of four possible scenarios playing out -- one or two of which may have little to virtually no chance of actually happening, but need to be included in the interest of thoroughness:
Scenario No. 1: Young initially fumes after being told that the organization won't punch his ticket to such exotic locales as Houston, Minneapolis, and/or St. Louis, but reports to spring training (as per his contractual requirements), dons his customary professionalism mask, and continues to ooze good-vibe intangibles by the bucket. In this scenario, Young sets aside his frustrations and misgivings about his playing-time situation (which will likely still comprise 600-plus plate appearances when all is said and done, provided that he's not dealt), ceases publicly voicing his distrust of the Rangers' front office, and at least ignores adversary Jon Daniels while continuing to be what most would consider a "good teammate." Texas goes on to enjoy a competitive season, thereby placating Young after a reasonable period of time, and eventually things quiet down to the point that he no longer wants to be traded.
And everyone lived happily ever after.
Scenario No. 2: Young is ticked, remains ticked going into spring training, and carries it over into the season ... except this time, it negatively colors his attitude and conduct in the clubhouse, in the dugout, and/or on the playing field. The extent to which this could occur is up for debate; it may be that he sulks quietly and merely no longer emanates those good-leadership vibes (or does so in far smaller quantities), or it may be that he's a bit more aggressive, to the extent that he ignites several disruptive episodes in team environments where such conduct is not tolerated. I will be upfront in saying that I have an inordinately difficult time imagining Young transforming into a clubhouse cancer in the way that, say, Sidney Ponson did three years ago, but I would be remiss if I did not at least acknowledge the possibility of Young adopting a scorched-earth policy as a means of expressing his discontent and forcing the trade issue more than he has already.
To those who would completely write off any prospect of Scenario No. 2 actualizing, I would point towards at least one disturbing little sign that has come to light this morning -- in addition to not being on speaking terms with general manager Jon Daniels, team president Nolan Ryan, and probably the rest of the Rangers' upper-level brass, Young has apparently severed all verbal contact with manager Ron Washington, who has never been anything less than a devout Young supporter and has always shown Young an overabundance of love. That bothers me. A lot. It leads me to wonder what other shenanigans Young would be capable of pulling, should he continue to not get his way during the remainder of his time in Texas.
Scenario No. 3: An amalgamation of scenarios No. 1 and No. 2, where Young sucks it up and maintains a friendly, amicable and team-first personality around his teammates, coaches and manager, but continues to be a thorn in the organization's side otherwise, with repeated trade requests throughout the season and a continued icy stance towards upper management. In this scenario, Young makes the best of what he considers an unfortunate situation, but also continues to work to extricate himself from it behind the scenes.
Scenario No. 4: The apocalypse scenario, where Young either (a) outright refuses to report to spring training, or (b) pulls the Alfonso Soriano-tried-and-tested 2006 gambit and simply refuses to come up to the plate as a designated hitter in his first spring training game, despite being penciled into that spot. This assumes an especially bitter, vindictive version of Young who wants to make everyone perfectly aware of just how serious he is about not being a designated hitter -- one who is willing to risk damage to his long-term financial well-being to prove his point, and to call the organization's bluff and hopefully force his way out by the most extreme means imaginable.
When Soriano pulled a similar stunt during his first 2006 spring training game with the Washington Nationals (involving an awkward scene where Soriano never came out of the dugout to assume his post in left field with the rest of his teammates, which temporarily delayed the game), then-manager Frank Robinson was forced to make a quick defensive switch -- and immediately after the game, then-general manager Jim Bowden issued an ultimatum: play left field tomorrow, or land on the disqualified list, meaning no accrual of service time and forfeiture of his salary. Soriano, of course, relented, thereby precluding the possibility of involvement by the players' union, who could have conceivably taken up the argument on Soriano's behalf that his value would have been diminished by a move to left field.
So, either flavor of "Doomsday" Scenario No. 4 carries far-reaching implications that would probably steer what is already a nasty public rift into historically nasty territory. I cannot imagine Young's pride is so immense that it overshadows his bank account, and it is for that reason that I find Scenario No. 4 almost unbelievable ... but when he was asked what would happen if the team didn't budge from its stance, Young refused comment. And when this blew up for the first time two years ago (when he was far less angry than he is now), Young remarked: "I'm not playing third base. I'm pretty adamant about my stance." I'd like to eliminate this possibility out of hand, but it strikes me as pretty obvious why we really can't rule anything out where this thing is concerned anymore. Hell, it's virtually beyond our comprehension as it stands right now.
Let's all try to remember this little episode the next time a major league team wants to overpay for things not directly related to the happenings on the baseball field. Because this ... this is a disaster.