I suppose you could say that the nightmare first began around 10 months ago, when the monstrous second-half run abruptly and inexplicably petered out to the tune of a .133/.188/.133 showing in the ALDS, and then an unfortunate ALCS/World Series run where he batted approximately .255/.275/.490 over the course of about 60 championship series plate appearances. It was a heartbreaking, cruelly timed offensive breakdown that struck during some of the biggest games of his life -- but, in looking ahead to 2012, you still felt reasonably okay given the strength of his 2011 regular-season campaign (689 PA, .338/.380/.474, 127 wRC+), and even though you knew he very likely wouldn't repeat that in the next calender year, you didn't seriously suspect that something like this was coming.
In 2012, however, the nightmare has become Michael Young's full-on reality. It's something that we've talked about a lot, something that has had vast quantities of virtual ink devoted to it already, and, aside from pointing out that Young had cratered a new triple-slash rock bottom for the season going into Sunday night's series finale (.263/.296/.344), I don't see a whole lot of instructive value in continuing to harp on about Young's offensive problems. Not right now, at least.
Because once you cut down past the plaintive wailing about how terrible he has been this year, you're still left to face the reality that he's not going anywhere for at least the next year and a half, and that, regardless of how nasty the downward spiral gets, he's still going to get his 600-plus plate appearances. It has been a bad situation, and it could conceivably keep on being a bad situation, but with things being the way that they are, you need to cling onto that hope that Young can successfully identify and correct the faults that have so completely infiltrated his game over the last two and a half months, and that he can salvage something of value from this potentially lost season.
And once you've made peace with that mindset, you can fully appreciate the magnitude of Young's accomplishments last night. His first three plate appearances yielded two singles that didn't come around to score and a line out, and, after Joe Nathan's assortment of ninth-inning problems, the cause looked all but lost, with a fourth trip to the plate not appearing to be in the offing given the 3-0 deficit ... but a rally was miraculously catalyzed by a throwing error, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz kept the faint hope alive with back-to-back two-out hits after Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton both made outs, and then Young, on an 0-2 pitch, went throwback on everyone:
There are a couple of other really cool stories to come out of that late-game swerve, including (but not limited to) the fact that the Rangers' win expectancy was a dismal 5.7 percent at the beginning of the ninth inning, and an even more dismal 2.0 percent once the Rangers were down to their final out with nobody on base, and the Kirkman / Tateyama / Feldman troika doing yeoman's work in extras, and Young inciting the game-winning rally with an opposite-field double to lead off the bottom of the 13th inning ... but none of that matters without the 0-2 hit by Young, the hit that we all hungrily longed for but dared not expect to actually transpire. Over these many years, though, we've learned that season-long goats can flip the script and recast themselves as heroes in an instant, and Young, for all of his problems this year, was the hero on Sunday night. *
[* For what it's worth, this was also the third-highest WPA game of Young's career, and, according to ESPN Stats & Info's database, only the seventh game dating all the way back to 2009 where Young recorded four "well-hit balls" in a single game, which presents an interesting opportunity to subjectively judge the validity of that statistic. In any event, here are the five highest-WPA games:
Listed above are the five highest-WPA games of Young's career. I had all but forgotten about this game (No. 5 on the list).]
There's something else I want to quickly mention in reference to Young's monster night, though, and it has to do with the mad rush to speculate on a struggling player having possibly "turned the corner" after a big game (in this case, a 4-for-6 effort at the plate). I realize that the urge to extrapolate a bright flash of success forward over a larger sample is part of human nature, but, as encouraging as this one game was, I'm not going to look at it as anything more significant than one very nice game in isolation.
In fact, it was back in late May/early June when Young went on a decent little average-driven run and churned out a couple of three-hit games in close chronological proximity to each other, and that didn't end up being a harbinger of brighter days ahead. Now, obviously, this one game could prove be the exception, and I hope that it will be the exception, and that this actually is a sign of Young gearing up to provide some legitimate utility out of the six-hole ... but I'm certainly not going to bet on that being the case, nor am I going to buy into the notion of this being a momentum-building or "statement" win -- a label that tends to be applied far too liberally to walk-off wins -- going into the second half. The Rangers win too many games nowadays for any single win to be that significant.
So, yeah. Soak this one up to the max, laud Young and the Rangers for going out with a bang and not a whimper, and all of that. Just be very careful about trying to extract more meaning from one win than what is truly there to be extracted.