OK. Since I've already burned every bridge known to Rangers Baseball Blogosphere mankind, I figured I might as well unload. Here we go.
Michael Young has lost his f***ing mind. That much we know.
Oh, you want evidence that he's lost his mind?
The first one comes from the "I'm too classy to blast people publicly and let me demonstrate that fact by blasting people publicly" department:
I've been misled and manipulated and I'm sick of it.... Other than that, I’m not going to reveal any details about how this process unfolded. It's not my nature to start blasting people publicly when I don't think it's necessary. I don't think it's fair or productive for anybody, particularly my teammates and coaching staff.
The next one comes from the "The Rangers are big fat liars and let me prove that to you by admitting that they aren't" department:
The suggestion that I've had a change of heart [about moving to DH] and asked for a trade is a manipulation of the truth.... I'll be the first to admit that I was not particularly keen on the idea of being a DH. But I did agree to do it. I wanted to put the team first. I wanted to be a Ranger. But in light of events that happened in the process, I got pushed into a corner one too many times. I could't take it anymore.
So, in other words Mikey, you didn't "have a change of heart" you got your feelings hurt and then changed your mind. And you didn't "ask for a trade" you demanded they trade you because you heard that they were trying to trade you and that hurt your feelings.
But how did he get there? How did this man who was once so humble, so dependable, so hard working and so committed to winning become a such a delusional prima donna? Like most people who become delusional and detached from reality -- Michael Jackson, Brian Wilson, Mike Tyson, Axl Rose, Sarah Palin -- it took a lot of people sending him the wrong message and praising and rewarding him for things that don't actually deserve praise and rewards over a considerable period of time.
Almost exactly four years ago, Jon Daniels culminated a woeful year-long run of decisions (broken up only by the Milwaukee deal that brought Texas Nelson Cruz) by handing Michael Young an $80 million contract for $16 million AAV. Compared to handing away Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young for Adam Eaton and Aki Otsuka, signing Frank Catalanotto for $13.5 million (and surrendering the 16th pick in the 2007 draft for the privilege) for no apparent reason, dealing John Danks and Nick Masset for a giant stick of balsa wood, the Young deal wasn't as devastating, but at some point, the chickens come home to roost on every bad deal.
The deal that the Rangers gave to Young early in 2007 made him one of the ten highest-paid players in baseball by AAV. He was not, had not and would never be one of the ten most productive players in baseball. The Rangers knew that. So, why did they pay him as if he was?
Young was handed that asinine contract, in large part, to show him how much the Rangers appreciated his "sacrifice" in volunteering to move from second base to shortstop to accommodate another prima donna named Alfonso Soriano.
Now that the chickens have come home to roost and some of us wonder how Michael Young became such a narcissistic jackass, we can look back at that moment and see that the Rangers encouraged Young's delusions by treating a pretty good player as if he were a superstar for no good reason. This seems to have taught Young that he was entitled to things because he was "Michael Young, Face of the Franchise" rather than for what he actually did on the field.
The local megia -- who already liked this very clean-cut, hard-working, immensely likable young man a whole lot -- immediately seized on this theme and wildly over-mythologized Young's "sacrifice." It was easy for the beats and columnists to fall in love with Young after having to deal with jackwagons like Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira. Young, by comparison, was humble and accountable and accessible. And so the folks in the press box created a narrative of Young bordering on beatification (Patron Saint of Sports Sacrifice), and then they kept doing it, and doing it and doing it some more.
What has always bothered me about this -- and I can tell you with all honesty that it really has bothered me all along -- is that Young's sacrifice was nothing special and certainly, the beats and columnists knew enough baseball history to know this as well.
George Brett -- a Face of the Franchise in ways that Michael Young could never imagine -- moved from third base to first base and then to DH to accommodate younger players (and trust me, Kevin Seitzer was no Elvis Andrus) and hide his diminishing defensive skills.
Carl Yastrzemski came up as a left fielder in 1961, played primarily at 1b in 1970, moved back to LF for a couple of years, and then back to 1B in 1973 which is where he got most of his at-bats until moving back to LF in 1977. In 78, 79 and 80 his at bats came at 1B, LF and DH. He finished up his career as the Red So'x primary DH in 1982 and 1983.
Hit machine and Hall ofcame up as a 2B/SS in 1978. He saw almost all of his action in the outfield in 1981 and became the Brewers regular 3B in 1982. In 1991, at age 30, Molitor became a DH/1B (but a DH first and foremost) which his how he played out his final eight seasons.
The Brewers also moved Hall of Famer Robin Yount from short to left to center without all of this drama.
The greatest hitter of his generation,Pete Rose, came up as a 2B in 1963, moved to LF in 1967, RF in 1968, 3B in 1975 and 1B in 1979.
Ichiro moved from right to center and back to right to accommodate other players. He's sort of the face of his franchise, no?
But god forbid Michael Young -- who isn't half the ballplayer that any of the above-named immortals were -- should be "asked" to move over from a position where he is not only the weakest link, by far, on an otherwise stellar defensive unit but also embarassing himself on a more-or-less daily basis.
Nonetheless, if you have been reading about Michael Young through the works of our local scribes over the past six or seven years, you would have been led to believe that no player in the history of baseball has ever sacrificed so much for the sake of his team. These writers knew better, but they were having too much fun building their monument to Young to tell the truth. Some ignorant fans bought into the narrative. That's regrettable.
But worse than that, Young evidently bought into the narrative.
Somewhere along the line -- born of an unjustifiable contract and nurtured by a fawning local media contingent who cannot separate the dancer from the dance (yeah, I dropped a Yeats reference in an angry baseball blog post ... that's how I roll) -- Michael Young came to believe that he was entitled to things because he was "Face of the Franchise" and The Patron Saint of "Sacrifice."
Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers began to ascend and they did so in large part because they became a true meritocracy.
Feldman didn't deliver and he was out. Harden didn't either, and he was out. Salty didn't either, and he was out. If you didn't produce, you didn't play.
And if you played, you played where you could most help the ballclub. Period.
They moved Josh Hamilton and his 5.9 center field UZR in 2009 to left field and replaced it with Julio Borbon's center field UZR of 8.9 in 2010. In the process, they upgraded LF defense from David Murphy's 3.2 UZR in 2009 to Hamilton's 6.8 in 2010, and yet they still found a way to get Murphy enough at-bats to become a very positive force in the lineup.
Hamilton would rather be an everyday center fielder. Murphy would rather be an everyday left fielder. They didn't get what they wanted because it wasn't what was best for the ballclub. Neftali Feliz would rather be a starter, but he was the best closer they had and so he closed. If he wants to start this year, he's going to have to earn it. And the Rangers will give him the opportunity to earn it just like C.J. Wilson finally got what he always wanted -- a rotation slot -- by going out there in Surprise and earning the job, breaking camp as the club's best starter.
Alexi Ogando skyrocketed to the big leagues from the DSL by being an absolute beast. Chris Davis didn't earn the job at first and was replaced. Justin Smoak became expendable by not producing sufficiently to make himself essential. The Rangers went out to get Jorge Cantu to fill a void at first, but he didn't produce and so they gave Mitch Moreland a chance to earn the f**ing job, which he did. And he's going to have to earn it again this spring.
A huge part of the genius of the 2010 Texas Rangers was using their resources as effectively as possible and that can be done only through a true meritocracy where there are no entitlements.
But Michael Young and his -5.4 UZR is evidently entitled to play in the field. Not because he's a good defender (and Young's continuing insistence that he is a legitimate answer in the field is probably the clearest evidence of his descent into delusional madness), but -- I guess -- because he's the Face of the Franchise.
It's nice to see at least one of the luminaries of the local press distance himself from the Patron Saint of Sports Sacrifice narrative today and I cannot applaud Gil Lebreton enough for his outstanding contribution to the Startlegram today.
But in general, the narrative is alive and well thanks to crap nonsense like this from Jim Reeves who is so completely smitten with Saint Michael that he actually writes that the club should make a move that hurts the organization because Young "deserves" it.