One Year Ago, Today…

“Babe, I think my water just broke.”

That sentence replaced my alarm clock one year ago, today. Less than 24 hours before the world’s most effective alarm went off, we were at the first of weekly doctor appointments before our son arrived. Less than 24 hours ago, we thought we had less than a month to finalize our preparations to become parents.

Finish the nursery. Make a decision on our pediatrician. Finalize our birth plan. Pack our delivery day overnight bags. Squeeze in one of those parenting classes. Perhaps enjoy a day or two of pre-parent life.

Instead, I found myself driving to the hospital (and smacking every speed bump way faster than I should have along the way) quickly learning what I like to call one of the primary laws of parenting: all of your “plans” are worthless, welcome to the chaos.

The next thing I knew, my wife and I were hearing confirmation that her water did indeed break and we would be having a baby within the next 24 hours. So much for that month of prep time.

That morning, my wife settled in for a long labor that wouldn’t end until the early morning hours the following day. Once the initial shock of “holy shit, this is happening” wore off and phone calls were made to family, I headed back home to pack some clothes and get the nursery and house ready for our new bundle of joy.

He wouldn’t be allowed to come home with us until nearly a week later. Even my last minute prep plans went to hell. Welcome to parenthood.

Most people mark the day of their firstborn’s birth as the day everything changed. While that is certainly true, personally, today marks the day that my world was truly flipped upside down. Not only was I scrambling to finish a month’s worth of final preparations into single day, but, throughout the day, I found myself reevaluating and re-identifying everything that made me, me.

Editor-in-Chief of Her Loyal Sons.

A large part of my world revolved around writing and talking about Notre Dame football. To some extent, it still does, but it is no longer the large priority that it once was. I had warned my team in advance that I would be stepping back a bit after the birth of my son, but I had no idea at the time that I would more or less completely step down in September and hand over the leadership reigns.

I can’t even remember the last time that I wrote a post purely about football. My last podcast was after the national championship game this past January. At the time, I said it would be a winter break. Winter has now bled into summer.

At some level, I will still write. I love writing. At some level, I will still podcast. Playing radio host is a lot of fun. People, many of whom that I’ve never met in person, seem to enjoy it too.

But it’s all back at hobby level now. It’s no longer a borderline second job as it used to be.

Employee.

Work was mainly that thing that paid the bills. Maybe allowed some nice things here and there. I’ve always been motivated in moving my career forward, but once I knew I would become a dad, the way I looked at my job changed rather quickly.

My current job killed the product that I was working on and supporting. There were opportunities within the company to move to another position, but it felt like a lateral move at best. If I’m working my tail off, I better be moving forward, not sideways.

So I went job hunting. More accurately, I went career-hunting. My job was decent and even if I moved positions internally, it would still be a decent job. I got picky. Very picky. I even turned down a job offer that could’ve potentially made me more money than I was currently making.

The day my wife went into labor, I was waiting on new job offer. On the day my son was born, I got that offer. At the end of June, when my son was supposed to be born, I started.

I’ve never worked harder in my life. I travel a ton, something that I never thought I wanted to do in my career and, honestly, something I don’t really enjoy. However, it’s worth it. The opportunity was too good to turn down. I see more potential here than at any other job I’ve had before. All the travel and the long hours are worth it, especially since my time not on the road is spent at home.

My new job has probably killed more free time than becoming a dad; however, becoming a dad was a major motivation for making such a huge change in my life. I work for my family now. They are the main motivation for what I do and the sacrifices I make.

Gamer.

A new dad that still manages to be a serious gamer may be harder to find than a snipe on a hunt (and if you’ve never been snipe hunting, please hire me as your guide…it’ll be fun, promise!).

Remember all those plans I mentioned earlier? Part of those plans was one final binge in Final Fantasy XIV as their first major expansion, Heavensward, was set to come out on June 23rd. I pre-ordered the game to get access a week early. I “played” maybe a few hours that week at most. I only recently finished the main storyline of that expansion, almost a full year later. That then put me two full content patches behind.

And then there are other games that I foolishly ordered that haven’t even made it out of plastic wrap. I have purchased games on my Steam account that haven’t even been downloaded yet, much less played. I’ve lost count of how many games I’ve started but have yet to finish.

Because when it comes to a choice of staying up late or sneaking in some gaming time, I’m going the hell to bed about 90% of the time. Even if I’m on the road by myself.

A great example: I declared to my wife last Friday that I would stay up late and enjoy a few adult beverages. In the back of my mind, I also figured an hour or two of gaming. I watched TV in bed with a drink and feel asleep about 30 minutes after her.

My real gaming days are over for now. My filthy causal gaming days have now begun.

Husband.

“Marriage” and “team” are terms that you hear mixed a lot. The “team” mentality really came into play on this day, one year ago. It really hasn’t stopped since.

I went from focusing on spoiling my wife to trying to simply make her life easier. I’ve never been hated more by someone who loves me than after my son was born because hormones and lack of sleep is the worst cocktail known to man. I say this with all the love in my heart. It may sound terrible, but it is hilariously true.

And, to be fair, I’ve grown crazier by the day myself. I’ve gotten angrier at the dumbest things possible and my wife will end up catching some collateral damage.

Some days are more of a survival effort than others. Every now and then, we get some moments in which we can remind ourselves that we are still the same lovebirds that we’ve been for years.

Honestly, it’s hard to put into words. It’s a different dynamic that has seen us both grow as husband and wife in so many different ways.

Bottom line: I can’t see any way that I would survive this crazy ride without her. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else either.


All of this started one year ago, today. It’s been harder than I could have ever imagined. It’s been better than I could have ever imagined.

Now, I have a single word in which I can identify with. A single word that can easily describe all my motivations and goals in my life.

It’s a word that my son has learned to say as well.

Dada.

CM Punk: Wrestling’s Savior

Punk celebrates his first WWE Title win at Money in the Bank. Photo courtesy of WWE.com.

Yes, that’s right, this is a wrestling post and if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you have likely seen the volume of wrestling tweets dramatically increase lately (actually, some of you have likely muted/unfollowed me because of it). Fact is, I’ve been a wrestling fan all my life, including the times in my youth when my mother banned it from my household along with the Simpsons. Needless to say though, it has been quite a while since wrestling, for any promotion has been a weekly stop-down event that I must watch live to avoid missing something great.

Sure, the WWE and TNA (recently re-branded to Impact Wrestling) have had a home on my DVR more times than not, and I’d catch the occasional PPV if it seemed interesting enough, but that was about it. There wasn’t really anyone or anything that grabbed my interest like Hogan’s turn to the nWo in WCW and his feud with Sting or the “I can’t believe that just happened” moments that littered the Attitude era of RAW. The WWE was able to lure fans like me back in though with returns of Stone Cold and the Rock for its Wrestlemania push and young talent like the Miz were keeping me around on a more regular basis. However, it was hard to get overly excited for Monday Night Raw and very little surprised me and gave me those moments when I would be on the edge of my seat.

In general, the PG-era that the WWE has been stagnant. The “big names” like Undertaker and HHH would return for Wrestlmania or another big PPV, a young talent would get a decent push here and there, and John Cena would find the WWE Title around his waist more often than not despite a severe love/hate relationship with fans, which is never quite good for your top face (but hey, the kids love buying his stuff!).

The WWE needed someone to shake everything up. Enter CM Punk.

I loved CM Punk’s wrestling talent and knew he had some good mic skills as well; however, the majority of his time in the WWE was spent mid-card leading a heel stable. During these runs, he proclaimed he was a savior as the leader of the Straight Edge Society and reminded his most recent stable, the New Nexus, to have faith his plans would succeed. As his contract with the WWE moved to its expiration (legitimately, by the way), CM Punk proved to be his own prophet.

Punk was given a shot to face John Cena at the Money in the Bank PPV for the WWE title and in Punk’s hometown of Chicago no less. Despite the fat his contract would’ve actually expired sooner, Punk signed an extension to have that match be his final match. Behind the scenes, there were several reports that Punk would indeed not resign, citing frustration with his role in the company as well as wanting to take a break from the demanding WWE schedule. The WWE decided to go ahead and use Punk’s contract situation as the build. Punk went out and announced that he would be departing the company, but being a good heel he added that he would be doing it with the WWE title. Later on, Punk was allowed to “shoot” (basically speak his mind and go “off script”) on why he was leaving the WWE and vent his legitimate frustrations.

After costing Cena a main event win on RAW, Punk took this opportunity and cut a promo that got everyone’s attention:

All of a sudden, Punk became the voice of all the WWE fans that were tired of Cena’s continued push and upset with the WWE’s direction in general. Fans, like myself, who couldn’t understand things like how the Rock could be booked in the main event of WWE’s biggest event despite not wrestling in the company for years. Not to mention, he managed to pull this off in character as well as he made sure to take jabs at the fans to keep the heat on him.

Taking such candid shots at Vince, HHH, and the rest of the McMahon family got everyone talking. Twitter exploded with tweets from not only wrestling fans, but former WWE talent as well. Jim Rome of ESPN even invited Punk to come on his radio show to finish his promo.

Punk had blurred the lines of reality. Was his promo 100% shoot? Was the indefinite suspension that came after a legitimate reaction of a pissed off Vince? Was this all a complete work? It didn’t matter, RAW catapulted back into must-see-TV. Not only that you better catch it live because everyone will be talking about it on Tuesday if you miss out. The Money in the Bank PPV all of a sudden had a huge draw despite Summer Slam, WWE’s traditional big summer PPV, being one month later.

Two weeks after Punk’s suspension, he was back on RAW. He cut an opening promo and had a “contract negotiation” segment with Vince to end the show and continued his momentum. Both segments are below (quite a bit of footage, but well worth a watch), but his scathing words aren’t the highlight. Simply take a look at his face throughout the segments–he had the WWE by the balls and the crowd was putty in his hands and he knew it. Armed with his pipebomb, he continued to push his character to heights he’d never been as he applied his craft to near perfection. In keeping with his heel character, he started making absurd contract demands of Vince, including that Vince bring back a discontinued ice cream line and put his face on it, prompting chants of “we want ice cream.”

Yes, he got a wrestling crowd, longing for the days in which they had a hero proudly display his middle fingers to them followed by a beer chug and a people’s champion that spoke of shoving several objects up people’s rear ends (after a thorough buffing first of course), the same crowd that consistently jeered what they considered a PG, kid-friendly champion was screaming for a children’s treat.

Part of Punk’s heel gimmick in the WWE has always involved him trying to lead people, to have them submit to his views, boasting that his straightedge lifestyle placed him on a higher plane to lead them. It was very easy to hate or love to hate Punk and the stables he led. And here he was doing the exact same thing, saying he knew best, that he was the only one in touch with the wrestling fan, the “voice of the voiceless.” He was a complete asshole, making unreasonable demands of Vince, insulting the hometown sports teams, and even comparing Cena to the New York Yankees

The result? Vince apologized and lost his cool. Cena’s own hometown turned on him. The crowd stood behind Punk, despite the fact he tore up his contract extension in front of them, cementing that he would leave them. Punk was even interviewed by GQ the same week. He had formed a new stable, but its membership was comprised of the fans.

Then came the climax, Money in the Bank. It was the first WWE PPV that I had bought in years, but I just had to see how the final act would play out. I definitely feared a let down, as the PPV’s namesake involved a match that would allow its winner to challenge for the WWE title at any time. It was the perfect cop-out to see Punk win the belt and literally lose it seconds later as he exited the company.

The title match itself did not disappoint and Cena and Punk squared off in a forty-plus minute match that was simply fantastic. As the match came to its conclusion, Vince and his “yes man” as Punk called him, John Laurinaitis came out to the ring. Cena slapped on his signature submission and Vince called for the bell a la the Montreal Screwjob on Bret Hart. The thought “great, I just paid to watch history repeat itself” definitely crossed my mind.

But just as soon as I started to fear that such a crappy end would soil the story, things took a drastic turn. The timekeeper “didn’t see” Vince’s call, so Vince sent Laurinaitis to ring the bell himself and end the match. Cena seeing this, broke his hold, and took out Laurinaitis, telling Vince that wasn’t how this would go down. Cena returned to the ring, was immediately hit with Punk’s finisher and lost the title, causing the Chicago crowd to give one of the loudest pops I can ever remember hearing.

Of course, Vince still had the ace-in-the-hole-cop-out of the Money in the Bank match. Vince tore off the King’s headset and called for Alberto del Rio to cash his title shot in immediately and get the title away from Punk to pretty much no one’s surprise. Punk though, drilled ADR with a kick, and ran off into the crowd, blowing a kiss to McMahon on his way out, belt in hand.

Next week’s RAW was a strange one. The entire show was comprised of a tourney to crown a new champion and a segment in which Vince was to fire Cena for losing the belt. The show failed to crown a champion as Vince interrupted the final match before it started so he could send Cena packing. Before he was able to do so, his “doofus son-in-law” came out, informed Vince that he was relived of his duties and that a replacement had been made: HHH himself.

With no champion crowned, Cena still with a job, and HHH in charge, it seemed that everything Punk had spent the last month speaking out against was happening right before our eyes. It was as if the WWE had taken all the momentum from Punk’s storyline and slammed the brakes.

Punk though, wasn’t done. He decided to have a bit of fun of his own and crashed the WWE Q&A session at Comic-Con to confront HHH, title in hand:

Punk was again blurring the lines of reality as this appearance began to build the hope that he would soon return to the WWE.

The next episode of RAW, however, didn’t lend much hope to that. It seemed that the WWE was once again reverting to business as usual. The show opened with the conclusion of the title tourney as Rey Mysterio claimed his first WWE Championship victory. That win seemed short-lived though as HHH later announced that Rey would defend the title later that night against John Cena, citing that Cena was denied his rightful rematch with Punk’s departure and Vince’s attempted firing. Once again, the WWE was placing Cena right back on the “you are the best” tier.

Quite predictably, Cena won and I started to wonder why I even bothered with RAW anymore. As Cena celebrated his 11th title victory, his music was cut off by Living Colour’s “Cult of Personality”. A confused Cena looked around wondering what was happening and I was wondering who in the hell would be coming out. Then out strolled CM Punk:

Wrestling’s savoir has returned. If his new theme song is any indication (well, not really new, he did use it while in Ring of Honor), Punk will be building on the superb work that he’s put together the past few weeks. He is indeed the “Cult of Personality” using his influence on the microphone to attract loyal followers with his every word.

The brilliant part about this angle though is that, while it makes for a very compelling heel role (which this will likely stay), Punk could turn face as well if he wanted to. He can be the lying asshole leading people into a web of deception or he can truly be “the voice of the voiceless” and save the WWE. Hell, he could probably still claim he is “saving” the WWE by being a lying asshole while trying to achieve his own goals. No matter how you slice it, he is now the leader of a large section of the WWE Universe who will hang on his every word and action. This could seriously go several different directions and I cannot wait to see it evolve.

The Joker had a great quote in The Dark Knight, “I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets.” As stated before, Money in the Bank is far from a big summer PPV draw, and, with its main event headlined by a mid-carder facing off against the defending top-dog champ, the WWE needed Punk to give fans a reason to care and purchase the show, opening the door for Punk to vent his frustrations. With just his pipebomb and a some razor-sharp words, Punk made his match a must-see event, became the most talked about wrestler in years, and has now thrust himself into the main event of Summer Slam where he will face off against Cena yet again.

In keeping with great Joker quotes, “This town deserves a better class of criminal, and I’m gonna give it to them.” The WWE has deserved a better class of heel for sometime now, and you can be damn sure Punk is ready to deliver.

E3: Assassin’s Creed Revelations

Time to take a deviation from the sports posts to discuss a bit of E3.  I’ll run down the pressers of the “Big Three” later, but first I want to touch on the game I’m most looking forward to this fall, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.  Yes, I’m looking forward to this even more than Final Fantasy XIII-2 and for those that know my video game tastes, that’s saying quite a bit.

Unfortunately, E3 didn’t exactly deliver a whole lot of new information about the game and it’s story outside of a couple of awesome trailers and gameplay demos.  In fact, it seemed as if the assumption was that everyone read the Game Informer cover story, which delivered loads of information, and didn’t really cover too much of it during E3.

Considering the issue is a month old, and GameStop was nice enough to give me a free copy, I will return the favor.  Feel free to download the entire article and soak in the info.  It’s about 10 pages worth of content and is very much worth the read.  The story, game play mechanics, multiplayer, and new locations are all covered quite in-depth for a pre-E3 reveal.

In the article, Ubisoft has promised one thing: answers.  While I’m sure Revelations will do so by first posing about 100 more questions, this is going to be a welcome addition after three straight games with incredible cliff-hanger endings.  Revelations will be the end of Ezio’s story, Ubisoft has made it clear that Revelations, much like Brotherhood, is not Assassin’s Creed 3.  In that game, we will have control of a “new assassin”.

However, we have had a whole trilogy dedicated to Ezio because his importance is much more than being just another ancestor of Desmond.  Unlike Altair, Ezio was forced into the life of an assassin due to the starting events in Assassin’s Creed 2.  In Revelations, he wants to hunt down the history of Altair and learn more about the knowledge and his devotion to the Assassin Order as hinted in the codex pages found in Assassin’s Creed 2.  Along the way, Ubisoft has stated that he will find seals that, somehow, contain the memories of Altair, allowing Ezio to relive his memories.  While this obviously screams Animus parallels to Desmond, Ubisoft wouldn’t state if that was the case or not.

And what of Desmond in this game?  Without spoiling too much of Brotherhood, players loyal to the series know that the most recent cliff hanger ending contained events that made Desmond collapse.  In the credits, you hear voices saying “get him back in the Animus” as well, without knowing if it referred to Desmond or someone else.  According to Ubisoft, those voices were indeed talking about Desmond and he is now in a coma.  He is now trapped in the Animus and must fix his fragmented mind to get back to reality (think Neo trapped in the Matrix in Matrix: Revolutions).  In this Animus existence, we will be treated to a new gameplay feature in which Desmond will be able to manipulate the enviornment of the Animus with his mind (sup Inception?) and, apparently, doing so will help him continue to live out Ezio’s memories.  Ubisoft has promised that there is a singular moment in which Altair, Ezio, and Desmond all share a key moment that aligns the three, and it exists within Desmond’s history, which we will experience for the first time.

The multiplayer will also be woven into the story as well.  Much like Brotherhood, you will be a part of an Abstergo program; however, this time around, the higher you rise in your Templar rank, the more you secret documents you can unlock to learn more about the modern-day Templar organization.  It all sounds like a very cool feature that will likely suck someone like me, obsessed with the story, into that feature this time around.

The article has much more information than I wish to type out here, but needless to say, this is shaping up to be quite a game.  That same information though should put the trailers and gameplay shown this E3 into a different perspective and, hopefully, lead to a little less headscratching.

And since this post is really about E3 anyways, below is the footage we have been treated to this E3.  The first is the cinematic trailer, showing Ezio returning to Masyaf, Altair’s home, now infested by the Templar order.  The second video is a quick teaser showing Desmond’s new existence, but be warned, it will spoil the ending of Brotherhood, so do not watch it if you need to catch up!  Finally, the third video will show actual gameplay, in which Ezio lays waste to an entire ship yard blockcade…with a flamethrower.

Is is Novemeber yet?

Jerry Jones’ New Reality

Imagine you are Jerry Jones (yes, I know that is a scary thought, but just go with it).  You have awoken this morning to a very hallowing reality: you officially own the worst franchise in the DFW area based on recent performance.  Not only that, you promised that the Cowboys would make a Super Bowl appearance, a home Super Bowl appearance no less.

The fans believed it, the national media bought in, and the Cowboys went on a 1-7 face-plant that led to the firing of head coach, and now national laughing stock, Wade Philips.

You start to think back to how your whole world started to crash down.

Your next door neighbors, the Texas Rangers, a team you likely laughed at as you built your gigantic Death Star next to their stadium, started doing what your team couldn’t: win, and win in the postseason.  While you still had refused to fire Phillips from patrolling your sidelines, your beloved Cowboys were being embarrassed on Monday Night Football.  To add insult to injury, they also broke Tony Romo in half.  And then your fans, the fans you have always counted on to fill your seats, buy your merchandise, pay for your overpriced parking and concessions, starting chanting something that damn near gave you a heart attack:

“LET’S GO RANGERS!!!”

For the first time ever, the Rangers were at the forefront of everyone’s sports mind.  The Cowboys, “America’s Team”, took  a backseat to the Rangers and their little Ballpark in Arlington.  And after their run ended, you could still hear talk about how soon spring training would come up again while you were introducing Jason Garrett as your new head coach.

Sure, firing a Cowboys coach mid-season for the first time ever grabbed headlines and the national attention that you crave, but you still had mumblings of those other sports that were growing louder and louder.

Then your mind fast-forwards to the moments you believed hosting the Super Bowl would save you.  Sure, your season was a nightmare, but your stadium, your masterpiece of over-extravagance, would take center stage.  The whole world would be in awe of your stadium wonder and how great future Super Bowls would be there.

Then your nightmare grew exponentially.

Sure, you couldn’t control the weather and how ill-prepared DFW was for the ice and snow that seemed to be God’s cruel joke against you, but you couldn’t believe the negative reaction that got.  All those “hardened” northern writers were apparently shocked that winter could exist here, but hey, they probably think everyone rides a horse here too right?

But then the game happened…well really, “temp-seat-gate” happened and all of a sudden everything you did again was overshadowed by failure, failure with your name attached to it.  You knew deep down that no one would remember this game, just this ticket disaster in which fans cursed your name as they were turned away from your stadium.

Your mind comes back to today and you think about the other sports franchises in the area.  The Mavericks are fighting to hold down a 2-seed for the NBA playoffs.  The Stars, a team whose incompetent owner completely handcuffed them (seriously, Hicks is nothing like you because you at least pay the bills on time right?), came within just a single win of clinching a playoff birth no one expected.  Hell, even that soccer team in Frisco, FC Dallas, damn near won the MLS Cup.  And those damned Rangers had their World Series run, but now they are the best team in baseball looking to go 10-1 this afternoon.

The Cowboys, your pride and joy, were the 9th worst team in the NFL.  Normally, despite such a season, you would believe the media here would be examining your draft pick twenty different ways, but the main stories are the Stars falling short and the Rangers making a historic opening season run.

Hell, you wonder if there will even be a season.  You are on the inside of the lockout mess, you know how bleak the outlook is.

This all has to be someone else’s fault right?  You put together enough talent to win.  So what if people kept on talking about your supposed weaknesses in both trenches, you had the QB, the star WRs, Felix freakin’ Jones (you do love your Razorbacks), and Ware could play defense all on his own right?

Your mind races, you remember Wade.  Only a bumbling fool could’ve messed that up.  After all Garrett went 5-3 when he took over.  You take a deep breath, you know things will be ok.  Another star skill player with that number 9 pick will surely put you over the top with your new coach.

You completely forget that the Ranger game is on this afternoon and start channel surfing.  You finally see something to make you smile, a football commercial.

But wait…you don’t remember signing off on this.  You keep watching it talk about winning football coming back to Dallas.  “Of course it will!” you say to yourself.

Then you realize it is a commercial for the new arena league football team coming to town, the Vigilantes.

A thrown remote, a cracked 72-inch plasma, and several expletives later, you don’t know what to do.  You are sick to your stomach and your blood is boiling.  Then your Blackberry buzzes and its  a text from your son wondering if you just saw the Rangers take an early lead on the Tigers.

As your Blackberry creates another divot in your plasma, you keep telling yourself “it isn’t your fault Jerry, it isn’t your fault.”

The sad part is, you believe it.

Is Michael Young Really the Teammate We Thought He Was?

It’s surprising how much can change in a day.

First we go from Michael Young requesting a trade, John Daniels and Nolan saying they’d attempt to accommodate Young if it would help the team, to Michael Young saying his time with the Rangers is done.  Well, “done” is probably being far too nice in this situation.

As Evan Grant broke last night, he was ever so willing to scorch the earth:

“I’ve kept a low profile out of respect for the team, the coaching staff, my family and the fans because I didn’t want to put anybody on an unnecessary roller-coaster,” Young said in a brief phone conversation. “Now, I think it’s important to address the inaccurate portrayal that is being painted. The suggestion that I’ve simply had a change of heart and asked for a trade is a manipulation of the truth.”

“I want to be traded because I’ve been misled and manipulated and I’m sick of it,” Young added.

However, he declined to reveal details of how he was misled or manipulated.

“That would be unproductive for everybody, particularly my teammates and coaches,” he said. “I know the truth and Jon Daniels knows the truth and I will sleep well.”

Young wasn’t done talking either.  Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports got the following:

“To suggest that there was just a couple of weeks off and I had a change of heart in terms of what position I wanted to play is inaccurate,” Young said.

“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 couldn’t take it anymore.”

And, as Lone Star Ball pointed out, it’s hard to believe that this is the same person that said this just six weeks ago:

Young has agreed to become the Rangers’ primary designated hitter and “super utility” infielder. He expects to get playing time at all four infield positions, including first base, where he has never previously played.

The willingness to put the needs of the team first is not a new development for Young. He came up as a second baseman, was moved to short, and more recently, moved to third to make way for Elvis Andrus.

For Young, the desire to remain with the Rangers is a larger factor than the desire to have things his own way.

“This is where I want to play,” he said Wednesday in a teleconference. “I’m willing to make a pretty big sacrifice to do that.”

That sacrifice has a quick shelf-life it seems.

But forget six weeks ago, let’s try two years ago.  Many people seem to forget that Young was not exactly willing to move from SS to 3B in order to make room for Elvis.  No, instead, Young demanded to be traded.  He didn’t understand the logic of giving a kid his spot as he was coming off a Gold Glove season; furthermore, Young had already offered to move positions when the Rangers were exploring trading A-Rod for Soriano.  Why do it again?

First off, offering to move from 2B to SS is hardly a sacrifice.  Sure, it is a position he wasn’t all too familiar with, but SS is a much higher profile position as far as the infield is concerned.  Hell, just look at the money the two positions make.  Young moved to SS fulltime in 2004, and at the end of the 2002 season, 2B made an average of $3.2MM and SS made an average of $4.1MM (source), nearly a full million dollar difference.  Young’s last season at SS was 2008 and during that season 2B averaged $3.5MM and SS averaged nearly $5MM (source), a widening gap of now $1.5MM.

Michael Young also went on to win his only Gold Glove under this new spotlight as well, despite a very subpar UZR of -4.2 that year.  I’ll spare a huge sabremetrics lesson (if you want that, go here) but a UZR of zero is average at a position, anything plus is above average, and minus is below average at the position, meaning Young won the Gold Glove as a below average SS.  In comparison, Andrus had a UZR of 12.1 and 0.1 his past two years.

So, yes, the move was hardly a sacrifice.  And it paid off huge as Young inked a 5-year, $80MM contract in 2007.  The Rangers have only signed two contracts worth more money: A-Rod and the newly signed Adrian Beltre.

Now came the move to 3B, the one he didn’t want.  Despite the fact Elvis is obviously the SS of the future and a clear upgrade defensively over Young, Young did not want this move.  In fact, once he was told this would happen, he requested a trade.  Now, the rumor was that new president, Nolan Ryan, had a sit down with Young and had a heart-to-heart, after which he supposedly resended the trade demand.

However, take a look at the quotes that are often forgotten from this period of time:

Jon Daniels on Young tonight:

“We’re not looking to trade him and have no plans to. We plan on him being a big part of our ballclub going forward.”

Young is upset that he wasn’t given a choice about the position switch, saying, “My hand’s been forced with this one.”  He says he’s “adamant” about not playing third base.

According to Rosenthal, Young was “absolutely livid” that the Rangers would request such a move just months after he was awarded his first Gold Glove (the award was not supported by his advanced statistics).  The team was hoping to clear a spot for top prospect Elvis Andrus, but now they’ve got a real problem on their hands.

Well now, doesn’t this seem familiar?  JD says Young won’t go anywhere, Young is upset at moving positions and even claims that his hand has been forced.

So now we fast-forward to 2011 and have the same damned situation on our hands.  Except this time, the Rangers actually went to Young first on a move to DH before they signed Beltre.  Reports littered the radio that Young would definitely move to DH should the Rangers sign Beltre and he later confirmed that after his signing.

Much like Andrus, Beltre is a clear defensive improvement, and a more proven one than that.  Michael Young’s career UZR/150 (an average UZR rating, per 150 games) over two years was an abysmal -7.5 (his career UZR/150 at SS wasn’t much better either, -10.2). Beltre on the other hand, over nine years at 3B has an UZR/150 of 15.3.  There is absolutely no comparison defensively.

Much is made that Beltre is a “contract year” hitter and that Young’s batting numbers are clearly better; however, over his career, Beltre’s slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) are rather comparable.  Young sits at .300/.347/.448 and Beltre at .275/.328/.462.  So the Rangers give up a bit of average for a little more pop; however, when you consider the amount of runs that Beltre will save by his defensive play, the offensive “hit” the Rangers take will more than even out.

The sabremetric analysis agrees as well.  WAR (wins above replacement), which estimates exactly what it sounds like it does: how many wins does a player give above a replacement, gives the tale of the tape as Young at 25.6, and Beltre at 50.8.  There is no question the Beltre signing is a huge improvement for Texas.

But the Rangers, recognizing that Young’s bat is still an asset, wanted to keep him on as a primary DH role.  Apparently, the signing of former Angels C/1B/DH, Mike Napoli, changed everything and caused Young to rethink his new role.

However, this just doesn’t make sense.  Napoli, while a great addition, is not quite an every day player yet in this lineup.  His career slash line is .251/.346/.485; however, against lefties, he boasts a .287/.391/.537, giving the Rangers a much needed potent bat against lefties.  Napoli’s role is easily that of a bench player or selective starter against lefties with Young on the roster.  His slash against righties, .208/.329/.467, does not justify stealing ABs away from Young on an everyday basis.  With JD saying 1B was Moreland’s job to lose, the logic speaks more to Moreland losing ABs against lefties with Napoli getting those starts at 1B.  Napoli would also see playing time as a backup catcher as well as a constant go-to power bat off the bench.

But taking away from Young’s playing time? I just don’t see it.  If Young was agreeable to his role as DH with Beltre, he should be no less agreeable with Napoli on the roster.  Add in the fact that Kinsler is practically guaranteed to miss a quarter of the season as usual, and Young still gets considerable time in the field beyond just the occasional sub.

It’s probably time we start calling a spade a spade.  If Young does this kind of crap in any other major baseball market, he’d be crucified.  For some reason, it seems some Ranger fans are willing to give Young a pass simply for being a “team player” for so long.  As I’ve shown previously in this post, Young hasn’t exactly been the shining example of a selfless teammate as he is often made out to be, and this latest demand for a trade is no better and it isn’t just his recent quotes that are doing damage, it’s his timing.

If Young really had a problem with being a DH, he should’ve requested a trade after the Beltre signing.  That way, we could’ve resigned Vladdy as DH, allowing Napoli to be the needed insurance should he hit another late-season skid.  Instead, Young has waited until he was signed.  And now that the Rangers have also lost out on Manny and Thome, Young knows there are no more free agents that can easily replace him in the DH role.

Of course, by scorching the earth now, Young has severely crippled the Rangers’ hand in trade discussions.  Originally, JD said he’d attempt to accommodate Young’s demand “only if it helped the team.”  This is the best way you can publicly handle a player wanting to leave as it keeps your bargaining position somewhat strong.  JD is basically saying “yes, I’m looking for a move, but I’m not moving Young without helping the club.” However, by scorching the earth, Young has become a pain that we need to get rid of which severely lessens his trade value.  Other teams will use this to their advantage to not only offer less value in players, but also attempt to make the Rangers eat more of Young’s huge contract.

The timing and ferocity of Young’s comments makes this seem like a calculated move.  It seems clear to me that Young has some serious issues with JD, not only from his quotes, but again, his timing.  Picking now as his time to no longer stay silent is a clear shot to cripple JD’s planning and negotiation efforts.  It’s as if Young is saying, “here is what I think of you and your plan for the future of the Rangers” and then shoots JD the finger.  And of course attempting to subvert the efforts of the GM also hurts the Rangers as a whole.

So is Young really the selfless teammate he’s been projected as?  Based on his history and his recent actions, I seriously doubt it.  Young simply can’t handle the Rangers placing him in a role that best suits the team.  While his move to SS was his call, it earned him a huge contracts and a bigger role with the team.  However, when JD saw better defensive replacements for Young and wanted him to move for the good of the team, Young has resisted vigorously.  JD wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t looking to improve the Rangers at every spot, regardless of any veteran tenure.

I’m upset that Young will likely no longer be a Ranger, but I’m more upset by how he is handling it.  If you have problems with JD and how the Rangers handled your situation, fine, keep it to yourself.  Don’t go to the media and insinuate that the front office is full of a bunch of backstabbing bastards that only wanted to “mislead” you.  Seriously, hinting that JD won’t be able to sleep at night is ridiculous.  Young was still going to be a major part of this team and still the face of the franchise; however, that clearly isn’t what he wanted.  No heart-to-heart with Nolan will salvage the situation this time.

It’s an absolute damned shame that this is the way Young’s tenure here will end.

Why I Can’t Sleep Tonight

It’s time for my only happy postseason memory to be replaced.  That memory was the sole Rangers postseason victory before 2010.  And I didn’t even get to witness it.  I was playing a baseball game myself.  I was eleven.

It’s time to replace that with the memory of watching the game with my dad and girlfriend (a Cubs fan, but she’s forgiven for hating the Yankees).  A few hours of nerves and excitement that I had never felt before in all my time watching sports, culminating in a absolute moment of relief when Kinsler drove the final nail in the coffin and feeling like I was in a dream as I watched Cliff Lee finish his complete game to send the Rangers to the ALCS.

It’s time to be thankful for Nolan Ryan, Chuck Greenburg, John Daniels, Ron Washington, and Mike Maddox.  Whether it was the old-school approach to pitching, buying the team from an awful owner, making fantastic trades, sticking to the course of developing our young talent (and actually holding on to them for once), focusing on defense and base-running, or creating a clubhouse atmosphere unlike any in baseball, none of this happens without them.

It’s time to appreciate just how damned important that zero-hour signing of Justin Smoak was after he was drafted in 2008.  That deadline draft-pick signing turned into a Cliff Lee trade that turned into two of this organization’s biggest wins ever.

It’s time to leave all the awful seasons, awful trades, awful owners, awful contracts, and awful postseason history behind.  And oh my have there been a bunch of all of the above.

It’s time to celebrate as Rangers fans, especially those of us that have stayed with this team through thick and thin: from Nolan Ryan to Chan Ho Park and back again to Cliff Lee.

It’s time to laugh at Sports Illustrated for picking the Rays to sweep the Rangers because that “beast from the AL East” would easily win with their “superior pitching staff”.  That sound you hear is Cliff Lee and C.J. Wilson laughing their asses off.

It’s time to welcome the Yankees into our house for a change.  Where last time they visited, we swept them.  Where Mo Rivera has blown multiple saves.  Where yes, we have still yet to win a single playoff game in our history.

It’s time to change that as well.

It’s time to show the Yankees and the rest of the baseball world that there is nothing more dangerous than a team that has nothing to lose, one playing with house money and a chip on their shoulders.  A team that has just tossed the franchise postseason gorilla off their backs, one that traces back all the way to Washington D.C. when they were the revived Senators.  A team who, previously known only for a huge slugging offense, broke two ALDS pitching records (team strikeouts in a series and Cliff Lee for individual strikeouts), and scored the majority of their runs tonight on nothing more than aggressive and smart base-running.