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.