SI apparently just conducted their own poll of active major league players on this question (after the Men's Journal poll that found Young to be baseball's most underrated player), and, well, surprise! So now Craig's overheated on the matter:
What is the source of Young’s svengali-like power? I can get how people close to him — journalists, other players — can like the guy a whole hell of a lot, but why does it render them unable to view him objectively? Other players apart from maybe Derek Jeter don’t have this problem. Journalists and players who surround them see their strengths and weaknesses and assess them more or less fairly. But not Young. Woe be unto the person who dares suggest that Young is not one of the best players in the game and one of the best leaders to ever wear a uniform. If you say that Young is merely very good and has, at times, not been an ideal leader, you’re a hater.
The response will clearly be that I don’t get it. But really, I’m begging someone, anyone, to tell me what it is I don’t understand. What does Michael Young actually provide that causes a guy who gets MVP votes and kudos in total disproportion to his measurable accomplishments to be underrated? If it’s just leadership, why is he considered a leader when other players who have acted in exactly the same way he has (i.e. having little tantrums when asked to move off a position for a better player) considered selfish?
I honestly do not understand. And I apparently never will.
Two points that are worth adding here, I think:
(1) Young had a pretty good, arguably All-Star-caliber 2011 campaign, and depending on when this particular SI poll was undertaken and the responses were collected, you might be seeing some recency bias that tilts the results more in the direction of last year's successes than this year's failures.
(2) For all of the blogosphere's grousing about Michael Young's "episodes" and how they didn't reflect well on his reputed leadership qualities, the outcome of this poll seems to reflect a belief among Young's peers -- one that is certainly prevalent among the press, or those that are close to him on a regular basis -- that, yes, the intangible qualities are certainly there en masse, that their mere presence and unquantifiable nature render him underrated, and that he's certainly not viewed in a negative light among most major leaguers. In other words, the perception of his "leadership" within the game doesn't seem to have incurred any kind of serious or long-lasting hit.
And as for the I-want-out debacle of last winter, I suspect there are quite a few players within the game who, rationally/logically or not, actually empathized with Young given his position at the time, and who perhaps do so even now because they themselves fear the prospect of someday being in a similar position ... so, you know, there's that to chew on.
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