Thursday, April 21, 2011

12 comments Murray Chass Nominates Michael Young For Sainthood

Michael Young wants to be traded and doesn't want to be the DH for the Rangers. This is a pretty old story from earlier this summer and it hasn't played out to be a huge issue for the Rangers. Michael Young got moved to DH because Adrian Beltre was signed by the Texas Rangers to play third base. Young wasn't happy so he demanded a trade. To me, it seemed both sides were being difficult about this, so I didn't really have an opinion one way or another. Leave it to Murray Chass to push me to one side when he finally chimes in (his comments are near to the bottom of the link). He thinks the Rangers were in the wrong and Young was in the right. After all, how could an employer have the gall to force an employee to do something that employee doesn't want to do?

For a team that won its first American League pennant last season, the Texas Rangers haven’t exactly looked like a winner.

For one thing, they hadn’t finished celebrating the biggest moment in their history, their first World Series appearance, when they waged an ugly internal fight and forced out the chief executive officer and managing partner, Chuck Greenberg, who was responsible for the team’s rescue from a debt-run operation by Tom Hicks.

So in an effort to make it look like the Rangers screwed up in cutting ties with Chuck Greenberg, Murray Chass is going to give Nolan Ryan no credit at all for his influence on the team and pitching staff. More importantly, actually way-way-way more importantly, he gives Jon Daniels no credit at all for turning the team around. Sure, Greenberg may have helped out financially, but he only bought the team in August 2010. Daniels had started to turn the team around on the field a few years before that, which helps tremendously when it comes to the finances of the team improving.

Daniels has had some bad trades in his tenure, but he helped rebuild the Rangers farm system and was responsible for the arrival of the majority of Rangers players that led the team to the World Series last year. So while Greenberg did good things, he was only there one year. Most of the tough work was done by Jon Daniels.

Maybe it sucks what happened to Greenberg, but he lost a power struggle with Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels. He also publicly got in a spat with the Yankees President Randy Levine, so there was that also.

On the field it was their messing with Michael Young again.

I hate to go with the "he makes a ton of money" argument so quickly, but Michael Young makes $16 million per year. He is well-paid and has been asked to play different positions throughout his career. Inconvenient? Yes. Messing with him? No.

Young isn't the only quality baseball player being asked to move positions for the sake of the team. He acts like the Rangers are asking him to voluntarily decrease his salary and become only a pinch-hitter. For God's sake, Chipper Jones got moved to left field because the Braves had signed Vinny Castilla to play third base. Alex Rodriguez moved to third base when he was traded to the Yankees. Kevin Youkilis moves from first base to third base (and back) on what seems like a yearly basis. Players have to move positions from time-to-time. It happens. I can probably think of other examples as well. My point is players are asked to move positions and they don't demand a trade as a result of this happening.

Young was the Texas designated hitter in the first two games of the season, and he produced 1 hit in 10 times at bat.

Clearly, his hitting was affected by his inability to get an opportunity to field a position in a below-average manner. Yes, Michael Young does have a Gold Glove from 2008, but I don't need to tell you intelligent readers this is probably the first indication he is a below-average fielder.

So Murray's argument that Michael Young isn't hitting as well because he isn't getting a chance to play the field is an argument I don't buy. Adrian Beltre is an upgrade at third base and he makes the Rangers a better I would think Michael Young would do what it takes to help the team. You know, assuming he wasn't overly concerned about only himself in this situation.

The Rangers can only hope they have not made a grievous mistake with their most consistent, most productive hitter over the last decade.

I don't dislike Michael Young (cue insults of Michael Young beginning), but he isn't an elite player. Aaron Gleeman covers it exceptionally well here. Michael Young is not a bad baseball player, but he gets paid like a superstar that he clearly isn't. Any hitting value he has to another team in a trade is offset by the fact he costs a lot of money. He has had some good and great years, but if it weren't for the fact he was the Rangers' best player when they weren't very good then he wouldn't be making the kind of money he is making. He is 34 years old and the Rangers essentially paid him a ton of money for being the face of the franchise and a consistent hitter when they needed one.

Productivity in the past doesn't mean Michael Young should be able to get his way to the detriment of the team in the future. I do have sympathy for Young being asked to switch positions, but he isn't the first player to ever be forced to switch positions and every single switch he has made has improved the Rangers. He moved to second base for Alfonso Soriano, then he moved to third base for Elvis Andrus and then the Rangers moved him to DH (and now it appears he will play some first base) for Adrian Beltre. What makes him valuable is his ability to play these positions. I know it is frustrating for him, but players are asked to change positions at times.

Once again, for the third time in his solid career, the Rangers moved Young. Only this time they moved him off the field.

Michael Young isn't a great fielder compared to the other options the Rangers have. He is a pretty good hitter, so DH isn't a terrible place for him right now. Hall of Fame players have been moved for lesser talented players than Adrian Beltre and had to accept the move.

Because Young had reacted so willingly and so graciously to the other moves, the Rangers assumed the third move would be no problem

Here's the little not-so-secret that Murray completely chooses to ignore. Michael Young hasn't reacted graciously and willingly to the other moves. In fact, when he had to move to third base, guess what he did? Take a few seconds to guess...........

He demanded a trade. Sound familiar? This seems to be a pattern for Young. The team moves his position and he demands a trade. I know he doesn't have to be happy about this, but I would venture to say if other ball players with less goodwill accumulated did this they would be criticized by Murray Chass. Not Michael Young though.

Let's look at Young's pattern of behavior when changing positions:

2004: Michael Young volunteers to go to shortstop after the Rangers trade for Alfonso Soriano. What a nice guy! So selfless! A little research shows he was drafted in 1997 by the Blue Jays and what is his position listed as? Shortstop. So Young volunteered to go to the position he probably preferred playing.

2009: Michael Young is asked to move to third base. He demands a trade. Clearly, he enjoys that shortstop position and sees himself as one, which makes me see his 2004 volunteering for the position in a slightly less selfless light.

2011: Michael Young is moved to DH. He demands a trade.

Again, I don't dislike Young, but it seems like when he is confronted with a position change he doesn't like, he demands a trade. Is a position change annoying? Yes. Does a good teammate just go with it and not pout? Again, yes.

Early in spring training Young asked to be traded, but the Rangers didn’t trade him.

"Does anyone want a declining 34 year old below-average third baseman who has 3 years and $48 million left on his contract? Anyone?"

Sound enticing to you as a GM? Probably not. I would bet the Rangers tried to trade Young, but they would have had to eat a bunch of his salary and wouldn't have gotten much in return for him. So I would say the Rangers didn't trade him, but not because they didn't want to trade him, but because he had more value unhappy on the team compared to what they could get in return for him in a trade. The Rangers would have to eat a ton of money just to get Young off the roster, so it isn't worth it for them to eagerly accept a trade. Plus, this makes the Rangers team worse, which I am assuming isn't something the Texas Rangers would want.

Teams rarely trade players under those circumstances.

Teams also rarely trade players who are owed $48 million and have ruined the team's leverage by demanding a trade.

“They were productive conversations,” Daniels said. He provided no details.

But speaking of the situation the Rangers created, he added, “I regret it wasn’t good for anybody. It created a situation where our fans and the media were taking sides. That should never have been. We all want the same thing.”

No, the Rangers did not create this situation. On a base level, the Rangers are his employer and Michael Young is their employee. If an employer asks an employee to do something he/she doesn't want to do, tough shit, it has to be done as long as it isn't illegal.

The Rangers attempted to improve their team by adding Adrian Beltre and Michael Young was moved to a different spot because of this. It is their right as a team to do whatever they see fit to improve their team, in fact, it is something I would suggest the fans DEMAND they do. Michael Young doesn't want to be a DH, I understand that, but he needs to understand he is 34 years old and it is in the best interests of the team for him to be the DH and fill in where necessary on the field. That's why I don't get Murray Chass defending Young, he is clearly putting his needs and ego before the team's needs. Players who do this generally get criticized and should get criticized by Murray Chass.

Young said he told Daniels exactly what he thought and how he felt, but he was still the designated hitter on opening day – and the day after that.

Because the Rangers saw it as the being in the best interests of the team. Nobody likes their employer changing their job description or role around. It makes a person feel demeaned, like they aren't important to the team, but at some point there needs to be a choice of whether to go with it or complain. Now, if a player complains he needs to be prepared for criticism to come his way.

What Murray conveniently ignores is Michael Young has a history of demanding a trade, this isn't the first time. He isn't quite as selfless as Murray wants him to seem. I would be on Young's side more if the changes the Rangers made didn't improve the team, but they did.

Nowhere has it been said or written that Daniels offered Young more money to make the move more palatable or that Young asked for money.

Why the hell would Jon Daniels offer more money to Michael Young? He is already overpaid as the 22nd highest paid player in MLB. The Rangers are paying Michael Young way too much money as it is. Paying him more money would compound the entire problem they have. Then they would have a declining player who is making more money than he was previously when he wasn't declining.

He probably wouldn’t consider additional payment an answer to his predicament.

Right. Because it is some sort of a moral stance he is taking? Morally and ethically, Michael Young doesn't feel like he should have to move positions for the benefit of the team? This makes it a worthwhile venture to demand a trade from the perspective of Murry Chass. I do get Michael Young's point of view, but Murray Chass is essentially blaming the Rangers for doing what needs to be done to improve their team, while condoning Michael Young's demand of a trade. I just can't agree with this point of view.

Michael Young has been good to the Rangers and the Rangers have been good to Michael Young. He has been the face and consistent bat for the franchise over the last decade, but he has also gotten paid, and continues to get paid, handsomely for this service. It's been a mutually beneficial relationship. Young is now over-rated as a hitter. He isn't a great hitter for his career on the road and if he were a free agent I think he would be lucky to get half of his $16 million per year on the open market. So he has it good and should just go with the position change.

Clubs complain about the absence of loyalty from the modern game,

No they don't. Fans complain about this. Clubs know it is all a business.

but loyalty went out the general manager’s window at least as quickly as the players lost it. If anyone doubts that, ask Michael Young.

I would love to know how the Rangers are not being loyal to Michael Young. They are paying him exceptionally well, they haven't placed him on the bench without an everyday job, from all appearances it seems they have attempted to trade but can not due to his contract, and they are trying to get him in the field whenever possible. How is that unfair? Young is still a productive hitter, but he isn't a productive enough fielder to stay on the field over Adrian Beltre, and he isn't a productive enough hitter to deserve the salary he is drawing for 2011. Therein lies the problem.

It is short-sighted to let Michael Young use the excuse of his being a full-time DH for his slow start. It is willfully ignorant (probably because he likes Young) to not view Young's trade demand as somewhat selfish as well. So I guess it shouldn't shock me Murray is being short-sighted and willfully ignorant.

This isn't the first time Young has demanded a trade. Players who move positions when asked to do so are unselfish and should be lauded for putting the team before themselves. I understand his point of view, but the way Murray Chass put it where the Rangers have done Young wrong is just incorrect. They improved their team and want Young to drop his ego a bit in order for the betterment of the team. It's hard to do, I realize that, but at the end of the day he is overpaid and simply because he doesn't want to confront the fact moving him to DH and Beltre to third base is better for the team doesn't make it a stupid move on the Rangers part.


JWM said...

"If an employer asks an employee to do something he/she doesn't want to do, tough shit, it has to be done as long as it isn't illegal."

Sorry, I've taken jobs where I was hired to do one thing and then asked to do a bunch of other stuff in addition once I was working. On those occasions, I've told my bosses that if they want me to do those other things, they can pay me more, otherwise I'll do what I agreed to do upon being hired and they can pay me as they agreed to pay me for that labor. Does this translate to Michael Young? not necessarily, but your statement is pretty generalized.

Bengoodfella said...

JWM, good point. I have no excuse for that statement being overly general. I think I meant it more in terms of non-additional work, like I have had to switch out certain projects that I was working on for other projects other people were working on. Basically, I was trying to say I have A, B, and E to work on and my employer tells me I am not working on E anymore, to take over Project D.

That's what I meant, but I agree with you it was generalized.

JWM said...

Fair enough,
I wonder about what you say of destroying leverage by demanding a trade. In other words, its reasonable to assume that athletes have to be aware of this if you are. Is it possible that 'demanding a trade' in the media is just a way of expressing extreme displeasure to management rather than a realistic expectation?

From an athlete's perspective, publicly demanding a trade is a good move because management will have to make them happy one way or the other. Management can trade them to a team who notices the players displeasure and will more fully utilize them according to how they want to play, or find some way to make the player happier by giving in to some of what they want, if for no other reason than to make the player happier, so he puts in full effort, and to set up a trade down the road when the controversy dies down. What management probably will not do unless the player is no better than a replacement player (and you don't see many role players who have 0 WAR demanding trades) is to ignore the request and tell the player tough shit indefinitely. Not to say this doesn't happen occasionally, but its a losing move for both sides.

So to conclude, in some ways its hard to compare the relationship of pro athletes and millionaires to everyday workplace dynamics because both sides have access to the media (and know how to manipulate it for their ends) and enough money to not really feel the full threat of unemployment. These are factors that are simply irrelevant for most of us and do not translate as anything but absurdity.

To bring it home (hopefully), I can tell you a common way to express displeasure at work for most of us is to intentionally slow down at work. If they treat you crappy, nick an extra 15 minutes for lunch, or do things slower than you can until the situation is rectified. You can see how this doesn't translate at all for a professional athlete, who if they withhold their labor by slacking or dogging it will hurt themselves in a number of ways and effectively give management all the leverage.

Bengoodfella said...

JWM, I am not sure if demanding a trade is expressing displeasure or actually wanting to have a trade. I would guess it is on a case-by-case basis. For example, I think Carmelo Anthony meant it when he demanded a trade and I don't know if Chris Paul really meant it and simply wanted Hornets management to show him how they plan on succeeding.

I couldn't help but think of Jeff Francoeur demanding a trade when you talked a/b guys with a 0 WAR demanding a trade. Maybe he didn't demand the trade from the Mets last year, but he publicly was saying he wanted to play everyday. Good times.

Demanding a trade mostly is beneficial to the player as long as he does it the right way and doesn't look like an ass in doing it. For Michael Young, I have no problem with him demanding a trade, but I hope he also realizes the moves the Rangers made in replacing him at 3B made them a better team, even if it hurt his pride a little.

I think Young's demand may have been a little bit of him saying, "I don't want you to forget about me, I don't want to be a full-time DH." If so, it worked because I am pretty sure they are playing him at 1B some.

I don't know if from the athlete's perspective it is ALWAYS a good move, but I see what you are saying. They get their feelings out and the team has publicly been shown something needs to be done.

There aren't too many comparisons between normal everyday people working and athletes working. You are right the dynamics are different, like I don't understand the need for more money b/c Young doesn't like his role. It does feel absurd.

I see what you are saying athlete can't go into Operation Shutdown at work because everyone will notice and it will only go to hurt them. While a normal person can do that. An athlete can publicly declare his unhappiness and realistically expect something positive to come from it, while a normal person would just be laughed at (most likely) by his/her boss.

Pat said...

Although different because injuries forced him to move rather than being asked, I think Robin Yount is an excellent example of making the best of a position change. Yount, like Young, would have harmed the Brewers if he tried to continue playing Short Stop despite his shoulder injury. Young has has lost the physical attributes necessary to play the Short Stop, Third Base and Second Base but, thankfully, he hasn't suffered a career altering injury like Yount which forces him to switch positions. Yount recognized he could still contribute to a winning team by becomming an outfielder, Young should follow suit and acknowledge his physical limitations.

Bengoodfella said...

Pat, I think in the context of not being in the situation Michael Young is in I would agree with you. Some would say Yount still got to play in the field as an outfielder, while Michael Young is being forced to DH. I think Young's fear was that he would end up being a DH/utility man and he doesn't seem himself that way.

So Yount is a good example of a player who made a position change for the good of the team. Adam Dunn's situation is different, but he had a hard time finding a team this offseason that wanted him to play the field, so he ended up getting paid very well to be a DH. He wanted to play the field though.

I think, and I am not in his situation, I would just see that having Adrian Beltre at 3B only helps the team win and I wouldn't mind being a DH if I were Michael Young. I do agree with JWM in thinking his trade demand wasn't really a demand, but a way to show the Rangers he wanted attention and wanted his needs met.

Ego aside, not accepting the move makes Young seem selfish to some people.

Rich said...

Nowhere has it been said or written that Daniels offered Young more money to make the move more palatable or that Young asked for money.

A little late to the party, but I think this is asinine. You go from a "job" where you have to hit and field to a "job" where you only have to hit and they should give you more money? If there was a company on the planet that cut workloads in half and then gave them more money to make the move "palatable" it'd be the greatest company in the history of the world and then it would go bankrupt.

Sorry, but unless your contract states that you get to play a certain position, you don't get to whine and moan when your team replaces you.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I don't even look at it as the Rangers replacing Young. I think they signed Adrian Beltre and then made the best use of their available resources. Michael Young isn't as valuable defensively at third base, so he is the DH and will fill in when necessary.

I think your comment shows a little of what JWM was saying in that there is a disconnect between the players and the fans. For us, the same pay and less responsibility sounds great, but for Michael Young it was a shot to his ego.

Rich said...


I can completely understand that it sucks to be replaced. If my adviser came in and told me I was being moved to janitorial duty for the same pay, I'd probably be pissed too.

The problem I have is that this isn't ARod or Jeter or someone of that caliber, this is an, at best, above average player who is pissed that his skills have severely declined.

If Young were in the prime of his career and this happened, I'd be more willing to side with him. However, the fact that Young is a declining player who's overall skill was never on the pantheon of the best players in the game, you lose a lot of your right to complain.

The other major problem I have is that it's not like the Rangers are sitting him on the bench day in and day out to waste away. They basically said "you're getting old and we have younger players who can provide the team with better defense, but you're still a very good hitter, so we'd like you to focus on that now." That makes perfect sense to me.

That same thing happens in the real world too. As you get older, a lot of people get pushed into specialties because it's much harder to be knowledgeable about current things when you're competing with kids who learned it in school, while you have to read about it in papers and journals. So you basically pick a field you're really good in and you master it.

Even so, as you pointed out, Young made the move to SS without a problem and even signed a contract extension in 2007 after the move from second. So he was so pissed off about the change in positions that he signed another contract? So in my mind, the Rangers moved him and he was happy with it and signed a lucrative extension... what precedent would they think that if they moved him a second time he'd demand a trade?

Ultimately, the Rangers have done nothing wrong here IMO. They realized one of their employees had a declining skill set and made arrangements that benefit the business and the employee by utilizing the employee's valuable skills while diminishing their reliance on the other skills that are declining. It's something that happens all the time in the business world, so how am I supposed to feel especially bad when it happens to a guy making 16M a year?

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I do tend to agree with you on this issue. I see where I generalized it as well and how there isn't a great parallel to "the real world." Young has hitting skills still, but compared to Beltre his fielding skills aren't comparable. So the DH position is a good place for him, because trading him doesn't make a lot of sense.

I think Young signed that extension because he wanted to play shortstop and that's why he didn't bitch when the Rangers moved him there either. He likes that position.

I would side with Young more if his skill set said to keep him on the field. It doesn't. Offering him more money just seems to be a dumb idea and out of the question. He doesn't need more money at this point.

Anonymous said...

The main annoyance I have with this one is that a lot more people than just Murray Chass are giving Michael Young the saint-like praise and treatment for being a good soldier and being 100% selfless, etc.

And that's a bunch of BS. When Manny Ramirez demanded a trade from Boston a few years ago, these same people used that as an example of how much of a selfish ass and a clubhouse cancer Manny was. There is no consistency. It's not like the Rangers are asking Michael Young to do something he can't do, like pitch. And it's not like they are asking him to be a backup player. They are just asking him to hit everyday and occasionally play some of the various infield positions, like 1B, 2B, and 3B. This is completely within his skill set. So I have no sympathy for the guy getting paid 16 million per year on this one.

And his trade demand history does seem very selfish to me. At the very least, he is not the saint that lots of people make him out to be. You gave good examples of players who never complained about position changes, like Youkilis. Michael Young seems to have an inflated ego, and it is probably large enough where he doesn't recognize that he is a defensive liability compared to the other current members of the Ranger infield roster. Either that or he simply doesn't have the best interest of the team as his top priority, which makes the idea of him being a 100% selfless player seem very incorrect.

Dude makes 16 million per year. He plays everyday. He's on a team with a good chance to make it to the playoffs. He has it really good compared to most other baseball players. Just shut up and play.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I tend to agree with you a bit as can be seen from my post. I do understand his ego has taken a hit and the Rangers have moved him around a lot. So I get his frustration and I don't know if he really wanted to be traded or not.

That being said, I would side more if the Rangers had asked him to do something he wasn't capable of doing. They didn't, they essentially forced him to quit playing the field and he didn't want to do that.

I do see the disconnect between us criticizing him and not knowing anything about a baseball player's life and what they go through. It may be easy for us to say he makes a ton of money so he shouldn't complain. I feel that way, but obviously he feels different.

I think if Young were more of a clubhouse cancer or was as "crazy" as Manny seemed people would be harder on him. Still, I don't think there is a huge difference. The difference in the eyes of many is that Michael Young has been the face of the Rangers for the past few years. He has been the consistent face on the team. Of course, this also gives him an inflated sense of worth as well. Young's value to the team was higher (as seen by his contract) when the Rangers weren't good. Now that they have improved his hitting skills are valued, but his fielding skills can be replaced.

I don't have a ton of sympathy for him either, but I also believe I was somewhat wrong in thinking Young really ruined his trade value with the demand. His contract and somewhat declining skills probably did more of that.