Sunday, October 16, 2011

7 comments I Suppose Michael Young Could Rob a Bank and Immediately Be Forgiven For It

Some of you may remember Murray Chass's ode to Michael Young earlier this year. Murray found the trade-demand machine, otherwise known as Michael Young, to be a great player who was an even better teammate, despite constantly demanding a trade when a superior player is brought in to take his position. It appears Jen Engel has joined the chorus to praise the consummate professional who bitched about his playing time in the offseason after Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre joined the Rangers team. I think Michael Young is a great player, but I can't believe how bulletproof he is. A disgruntled player is usually looked upon by the media as a problem, but Young received an MVP vote from Engel for being disgruntled.

I realize Young had a great year, but how the hell is he a consummate professional by constantly bitching about players being brought in to supplement the Rangers team? How is this professional? He still got 689 plate appearances this year and he played very well in those plate appearances. The Rangers clearly aren't looking to take him out of the everyday lineup and they told him this during the offseason. So Jen Engel has decided she thinks Young should come in second in the AL MVP race. Why? Because he is a professional who doesn't let things get to him and still performs well and leads the Rangers team, which doesn't explain how complaining to management publicly about your playing time is being professional.

I'm convinced at this point Young could rob a bank or commit a triple homicide and everyone would immediately forgive his actions. He can do no wrong.

If I had an American League MVP ballot and voting privileges, my vote would be easy.

1. Justin Verlander

2. Michael Young

3. Ellsbury, Bautista, blah, blah, blah.

Yes, "blah, blah, blah..." let's throw in the players who have great statistics right behind Michael Young. Suppose we switch Jose Bautista with Michael Young this year and each would play for the other's current team. Think the Rangers would be a better team and the Blue Jays would be a worse team? I would think so.

Why I would have the Rangers’ super utility infielder as runner-up, when so many consider him not a worthy candidate at all, is because of what Mike Napoli did Saturday.

Naturally. Nothing proves Young's value to the team than the on-the-field exploits of another player on Young's team.

"You see that home run Nelson Cruz hit? Michael Young inspired him to hit that home run."

We love stories like that, tales of tribulation and redemption. However, the truth is there was nothing easy about the Rangers, at least not in the beginning of the season. Just ask Young.

I know! I am sure none of these tribulations were caused by Young's offseason behavior. How dare the Rangers go out and get Adrian Beltre? Didn't they see how acquiring a guy who can hit .296/.331/.561 with 32 home runs would reflect on Michael Young? This is why Young demanded a trade at the beginning of the season for the second or third time in his career. He's so unselfish he doesn't want the team to succeed if it means he has to switch positions.

But Napoli was the final straw in a simmering feud that quickly snowballed into an ugly offseason word brawl between Young and the Texas team he has been the face of for years.

The ugly offseason brawl went like this. The Rangers signed a good third baseman in free agency and Michael Young didn't want to switch positions. Then the Rangers traded for Mike Napoli and Young was afraid Napoli would take away his at-bats the DH spot in the lineup. Incidentally, Young complained he didn't want to be the DH when the Rangers signed Beltre, but then when the Rangers traded for Napoli he complained this would take away at-bats at the DH spot he didn't want to play anyway. He is a consummate professional. The moral to this story is that Michael Young enjoys demanding a trade and being difficult when he can be. He became difficult when he was moved to third base for Elvis Andrus and I know he is a great leader, but I'm not sure he is the best team player when what is best for the team hurts him personally.

This could have gotten toxic, and fast.

But it didn't get toxic because Young was able to demand a trade and whine about his playing time in a professional manner. I'm assuming he didn't stomp his feet or sit Indian-style on the carpet and refuse to move until he was guaranteed playing time and that is what makes him a consummate professional.

Why it did not is because Young did what he always does: play good ball and be a better teammate.

Unless you think a player demanding a trade when a superior player is signed to play his position is not being a good teammate.

Look, I get Michael Young’s position. It sucks to get replaced and a little bit of whining or complaining is to be expected. Privately this can happen. What’s irritating is the Rangers moves that involve Young moving positions have consistently made the team better and Young made his demands public. That’s even fine to make your trade demands public, but how the hell do you get lauded for this behavior? Jen Engel thinks Young should be MVP because he didn’t cause a huge ruckus when the Rangers replaced him with Adrian Beltre and took away some of his time (though it didn’t take away his time) at first base by trading for Mike Napoli. He is getting credit for accepting with only some complaining what other players accept with no public complaining.

The truth: There is no easy redemption of Napoli without the consummate professionalism of Young.

First, Napoli didn’t need to be redeemed. He should have gotten more playing time in Anaheim. He never hit like he did in Anaheim like he has for Texas, but he deserved 500 at-bats per year in Anaheim, not to split time with Jeff Mathis. So couching what Young “did” in terms of Napoli’s necessary redemption is already a contrived narrative.

The fit Young threw, and he did throw a fit, when Napoli was traded for is not the sign of a consummate professional. Frankly, Young is lucky this didn’t affect the team more than it did. He went public with this demand and felt the Rangers misled him about his role with the team.

And yet just watch, everybody will skip Young's role because, frankly, it involves intangibles,

It also involves Young no longer being a baby and realizing having Napoli and Beltre on the team makes the Rangers a better team and he would get the at-bats he requires to keep his ego happy. I wouldn’t say Young accepting the Rangers have improved with the addition of these two players is a positive intangible necessarily. He didn’t continue to throw a fit throughout the year and that's great. A consummate professional would not have thrown one in the first place.

and what cannot be measured no longer matters in baseball, or so we have been told.

This article would not be complete without a shot at “Moneyball.”

“It could have been a huge distraction. He could have been a pain in the …” Washington acknowledged Saturday. “But Michael Young is not that kind of guy.

Except Young was a pain in the ass when he first learned about the acquisitions of Beltre and Napoli. It just happened he learned about these acquisitions during the offseason so everyone had time to cool down before the season began. I give credit to Young for finally getting over it, but he doesn’t deserve a second-place MVP vote nor any other form of excessive credit.

he is teaching so many guys how to be a baseball player, and so I knew he wouldn’t let it get in the way of his teammates.”

Mike Napoli’s great season can easily be considered a by-product of Michael Young teaching him how to be a baseball player. For years, Napoli just considered himself as a guy who hit a baseball with a wooden bat, but this year with the help of Michael Young he learned to be a baseball player.

Young being a pro’s pro. Because when the Rangers first traded for Napoli, so closely on the heels of third baseman Adrian Beltre being signed to a big contract to play Young's position, the face of the franchise became apoplectic,

Let’s think. Is this something a pro’s pro would do? Did Kevin Youkilis shit a brick and demand a trade when the Red Sox signed Adrian Beltre or traded for Adrian Gonzalez or Victor Martinez? Did he cry when Mike Lowell got time over him at third base? No, he didn’t. That’s being a pro’s pro. Becoming apoplectic for the second or third time in your career and then eventually getting over it is not being a pro’s pro.

kind of at the team and most definitely at GM Jon Daniels for what he felt were broken promises and poorly handled communication.

Part of what makes Young so valuable is his versatility. These moves made by the Rangers made the Rangers a better team and took advantage of Young’s versatility. He got angry and now he is getting credit for not ruining the season. I don’t get it.

Sides were taken. Angry words were exchanged through reporters. A trade was demanded.

A pro’s pro. Getting angry and demanding a trade through the media if you are Michael Young not only causes the media to defend you, but also give you MVP votes. It’s crazy. It is like he can do no wrong and be forgiven for demanding a trade, when if quite a few other players did this they would get crucified.

And when none materialized, questions surfaced about whether Young would report for spring training and what mental state he’d arrive in if he did.

Pro’s pro. You ask what that means? That means a person who demands a trade and then leaves a question out there as to whether he will report to spring training or be pissed off and cause problems if he does report.

What Young did instead was establish himself as the Rangers’ MVP and a dark horse AL MVP candidate, by virtue of numbers everybody can see — career highs with a .338 average and 106 RBI —

He had a fantastic year. He should be considered an MVP candidate for those reasons, not because he didn’t ruin the Rangers season as may have been expected of him based on his actions and statements during the winter.

And sure enough Young’s fingerprints were everywhere on Saturday’s season-saving victory —on a Rangers offense that finally came to life, on young winning pitcher Derek Holland,

Young has hit .133/.188/.133 in the ALDS. It is a small sample size but I thought this should be mentioned when determining his effect on the Rangers 2011 postseason outside of his performance in one game.

and even on Napoli, who never once felt any of Young’s frustration.

Well it is fine then. Since Napoli didn’t feel any of Young’s frustration maybe Michael Young deserves the AL MVP and Cy Young Award.

Young was not booted, not in that way, yet he basically was being told that at age 34 his best days were behind him and his numbers were statistically likely to keep declining,

Not at all. What Young was being told is the Rangers had a chance to improve the team by trading for Mike Napoli and signing Adrian Beltre. There are injuries to players throughout the season and Young would still get playing time, just not at one particular position. It wasn’t a knock on Young any more than it was a vote of confidence for his versatility, while attempting to improve the team’s roster.

and that he had switched from second base to shortstop to third base did not really matter.

It doesn’t matter. Young gets paid the same no matter what position he plays, so the Rangers shouldn't shy away from improving their team because Young doesn't want to change positions again or is worried about his playing time. He's proven he deserves the playing time he undoubtedly will continue to receive.

This is the danger of judging athletes only by attributes you can assign a number to, like a few in the Moneyball crew do.

This whole “Michael Young should be the second-place finisher in the MVP vote” thing has nothing to do with “Moneyball.” This is the fallback excuse for sportswriters when there is no factual backing for the position they are taking. This fallback excuse is to say Young deserves second-place MVP votes based on intangibles and then will blame statistics or “Moneyball” for the people who disagree with this position. It is the sportswriting equivalent of a teenager screaming his parents will never understand him/her and then running out of the room.

But there is also value in a guy who can stand up in the clubhouse and say “I am behind our manager. He’s my guy”

Maybe this decribes Michael Young. So where is the value in a guy who can stand up in the clubhouse and say “I don’t want this team to improve if it involves me having to change positions again, I am not happy with how I am being treated and I want to demand a trade…yet again”? Because that guy is Michael Young too. Granted, he didn't do this in the clubhouse. I will assume the other Texas Rangers are literate and heard or read about Young's anger with the Rangers team over the last offseason. So undoubtedly his teammates were aware of the situation.

Moneyballers hate Young, mostly because they do not value batting average, do not feel he walks enough and place less value on intangibles.

Most likely this is because by the very definition of the word intangibles have no value or their value is very hard to determine. That’s why it is so easy to just fallback on saying a player like David Eckstein or Darin Erstad have intangibles, because it is nearly impossible to prove incorrect because as is stated time and again, we aren't in the locker room to know about these intangibles firsthand.

Young was one of the guys calling him all offseason, helping him build back his confidence and teaching him by example how to be a pro. There is no number for this. There is no replacement for it either.

I’m not denying Michael Young is a good leader for his teammates. He just happens to be a leader who also demands a trade whenever he is unhappy. I need it explained to me why he constantly gets a free pass for this.

“I am a big Michael Young man,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said… Every team would love to have one of those.”

Who wouldn’t want a versatile player who is perpetually unhappy when asked to play a different position in order to take advantage of his versatility?

Everybody, it seemed, except the Rangers. Or at least this is how it felt to Young when Beltre and Napoli were acquired.

Oh ok, so I get it. Michael Young was justified to feel the way he did because the Rangers dared to improve their team and because Young's feelings were hurt. I forgot that team’s leaders let their personal feelings overrule what is good for the team.

They were genius moves for which JD and his crew deserve credit. But they were made smarter by Young, by how he handled himself since the day he arrived at spring training, and by how he has played every day since.

So I guess we just conveniently gloss over his trade demands prior to spring training as if this isn’t a part of Michael Young’s personality? So Young gets credit for how he has handled himself since spring training, but deserves no criticism for the Rangers wondering if he would show up at all for spring training or show up with a bad attitude? I don’t get this.

It is not fully accounted for on any stat sheet, but its influence was all over Saturday's outcome and it made everything easier. And in my mind, that is the very definition of what is most valuable when trying to win baseball games.

No one is denying Young’s great year. The big mystery is why Michael Young gets a pass for his behavior in the offseason. He should not be the MVP or get any MVP votes simply because he stopped demanding a trade long enough to not have it affect the team. Quoting Young's positive intangibles isn't the reason he should get MVP votes, especially when the negative intangibles are conveniently dismissed.


Jonathan Rogers said...

I don't really disagree with a lot of your premise, but a couple thoughts as a Rangers fan.

There definitely is an inordinate amount of love for Young in Texas, but there's also a strong subset of Texas fans and some of the local Sabre crowd that has turned the media cheer-fest into a running joke.

Part of the issue is an admittedly emotional response to Young's status, because he's been with the team for so long, and was a really classy guy for years when the franchise sucked, playing hard every year, not complaining, not asking for a trade. For a while he was pretty much the only bright spot in an otherwise dismal story, and a lot of the fans and media still feel gratitude to Young from that period. He's built up a ton of good will with the public over his career.

So when Young started grumbling last off-season, a lot of fans sympathized with him, it felt as if the guy who'd been such a stalwart for years with the team was now getting shafted, even if it made the team better. We wanted him to stay, but also understood where he was coming from (kinda similar deal when Pudge left Texas, Rangers fans were happy he left and had a chance to go win a championship).

The final thing that helped re-start the media accolades this year was that as soon as Young reported to spring training, he shut up, went back to work, and accepted his role. If he'd extended his sour grapes attitude past that point, the media narrative probably would've been much much different going forward.

On a side note, can someone give me a non-homer perspective about the media treatment of the Rangers this post-season? Rangers fans are about fed up with Tim McGarver's color commentary.

Thanks, enjoying the blog.

JimA said...

as soon as Young reported to spring training, he shut up, went back to work, and accepted his role

I really think this is important to remember. I'm not saying he deserves to be MVP because of it, but I don't think he deserves the hostility you're giving him. Just because a couple of douchebags are over generous towards him doesn't make him an awful person.

Bengoodfella said...

Jonathan, thanks for your perspective. I can understand how Young gets more rope because he was with the Rangers when they stunk and didn't cause waves because the team was bad and said he wanted to go somewhere else.

I guess I think that he just didn't fully embrace his job as guy who can play multiple positions, which I can understand to a point. While I can how he feels he was being mistreated when the team got better, I also see how the Rangers finally started to put a team around Young and he should be happy about that.

I think the fact he did go about his work and had a great year, probably more so he had a great year honestly, is why he gets somewhat of a pass. You take the emotion of what Michael Young means to the Rangers out of it and that's how I come to the conclusion I have. Of course, the emotion of what he's meant to the team is probably the reason he has gotten a semi-free pass of sorts.

I have been fed up with Tim McCarver for a few years now. I'm not a fan of Joe Buck anymore. His voice is clearly bothering him and I wish he could either get excited about moments or take a sabbatical to get his voice right. I don't want him to be like Gus Johnson in the booth, but Nelson Cruz hit that game-winning GS a few night ago and I thought it was foul at first because Buck was just a little bit excited about it.

One of the biggest issues I have had is the analysts who say the Rangers are surprising people b/c much wasn't expected of them since Cliff Lee left in FA. The Rangers traded for Lee last year when they were already in 1st place and CJ Wilson has proven to be a quality starter, plus they improved their team in the offseason. I didn't pick them to win the AL West, but that was b/c I believed in the Angels for some reason.

The media coverage of Texas probably represents they aren't a "traditional" power and play in a state more known for football. I could be wrong about. What else has irritated Rangers fans about the coverage?

Thanks for reading and feel free to disagree when you do. I like disagreement.

Speaking of disagreement...JimA, you are right, that is important to remember and that is why Young is semi-off the hook for demanding a trade in the offseason. Jen Engel was saying he deserved to be MVP for it and that is primarily what drew my ire. If she had just complimented his good year and talked a/b how he bounced back a/f not getting traded and moving positions I probably would have left it alone. She said basically he deserved the MVP for not causing a problem during the season. I don't agree with that.

I'm not sure I was hostile towards him and he isn't a bad person. I just found he wasn't getting the same treatment another ballplayer who demanded a trade may possibly receive. You are right, a lot of that is b/c he dropped it during the season and played well. Success makes a lot of problems go away. He still doesn't deserve the MVP and I don't have hostility towards him, just shock he would deserve a second-place MVP vote b/c he got over it and did what was best for the team.

Jonathan Rogers said...

Right, Young definitely shouldn't be getting MVP consideration simply because he sucked in his ego and stopped whining. Totally agree. And I agree that his good year has been helped by his DH/Super Utility role, keeping him better rested (he also got to bat behind Hamilton and Beltre for most of the year, then moved to cleanup when Beltre was out, that helped boost his RBI's a lot).

I couldn't believe it when Cruz hit the three-run shot in game 4 and McCarver reacted with silence for half a minute, then stammered something about leaving Valverde in. Then the feed cut to the re-play of the Rangers dugout reacting, and McCarver seriously said, "You won't see a bigger bunch of 'YEAHs' in the world than that."

The biggest grip Rangers fans have had lately was the scheduling for the ALCS. The rational side of me understood that perhaps St. Louis has a bigger established fan base and that that crowded out the Rangers, but the emotional side of me was really fed up that they scheduled two day games for us (some of this is probably on the FOX execs for protecting their silly X Factor show, and it was sweet redemption when game 4 was first delayed by rain and then went into extra innings). It was also frustrating coming off of the ALDS, when we had more day games against the Rays (I get that we were up against the Yankees for billing there, but that sort of scheduling doesn't help Baseball's supposed quest for "parity").

Rangers fans have also been annoyed with the usual "OMG the Yankees and Red Sox are still more important than the teams actually left playing," emphasis. I imagine the Braves fans here understood this very well when Atlanta's collapse was of palpably less significance than Boston's to the media.

One thing that just came to me: while sports journalists and pundits are supposed to be "experts," I wonder if they get caught off guard by lesser-known teams and find themselves in a tougher position when it comes to writing stories or finding talking points. The North-East monopoly creates a cycle where pundits keep talking about the Yankees/Red Sox/Mets/Phillies partly because they know those teams better to begin with.

Bengoodfella said...

Jonathan, my biggest thing a/b Young just was that the Rangers seemed to promise him a large role with the team this year and that wasn't enough it seemed for him. They followed through on that. I get his frustration, but I probably should have focused more on how he didn't deserve 2nd place in the MVP vote. My non-Ranger fan opinion doesn't reflect what has meant to the team.

That Cruz HR call was ridiculous. I really thought I was missing something b/c I started yelling and the sound from the TV didn't reflect what I was seeing. I thought it was foul. I would have appreciated something in the middle of a Gus Johnson-like response and what Joe Buck did.

Baseball wants parity, but the networks do not. It probably was the perceived larger fan bases for the Cards that factor into that scheduling. Teams have to have day games but I can't say it doesn't suck for a team that plays a day game b/c the fans can't really watch the game. Unless they do it at work and some people can't watch at work. I feel your pain and I hate it when the Braves were on in the afternoon b/c I always missed the game. Anytime you go against a team with a huge fan base it will be a night least usually.

I was actually really glad the media covered the BoSox collapse so much because it took attention away from the Braves terrible collapse! The networks love to over-cover some teams and when other teams aren't in the WS or playoffs there is a sort of inferiority complex from the teams left over. I get that.

I think some experts do get caught off-guard by these lesser teams. Mostly, my annoyance is the "experts" are less experts and really just ex-baseball players (or ex-whatever sport it is they used to play and now cover). For some reason networks are infatuated with ex-players doing analysis and calling games. It's not even a/b looks b/c John Kruk is ugly and he doesn't seem to know baseball too well.

You could see some of the experts getting caught off-guard when stories lead off with "We thought the Rangers would stink once Cliff Lee left" as if the good bullpen, improved lineup, and the fact the Rangers were good w/o Lee before July 2010 weren't indications they could still be good w/o Lee. I picked the Angels and regret it. I gave the lineup WAY too much credit and didn't think enough of the Rangers. Stories a/b Cliff Lee-The Rangers don't make sense if you have paid attention since April.

Experts like to overreact and they prob do know more a/b East Coast teams nearer to them. It's just the nature of the beast.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand the media's perception of Michael Young. You pretty much nailed all my gripes with him in this post.

But I'd like to add one more nonsensical thing about this intangible-fueled MVP vote. Even if we accept that Michael Young is so full of intangibles that it makes his value ten times greater than what the numbers suggest, how does this voter know that Granderson's intangibles didn't have a similar or even greater effect on the Yankees? Granderson seems like the nicest guy ever, so it's easy to assume he has high intangible value. Or what about Miguel Cabrera? Maybe he was so motivated to redeem himself after the offseason alcohol incident that his intangibles skyrocketed to unimaginable levels? This could be true. Or what about a not-so-obvious player like Victor Martinez, who isn't getting any MVP love because his numbers don't stack up to the others (like Young). But maybe V-Mart's intangibles and leadership skills were so great that he helped Avila and Fister turn in some great performances for the Tigers (just like this voter seems to suggest that Young helped out his teammates like Napoli and Holland)?

This is why you need to use the numbers and you can't use intangibles. We can compare the numbers very easily. When you reach down in to intangibles you are just guessing, that's just the nature of intangibles since you cannot quantify them. This voter is just guessing that Michael Young's intangibles make him more valuable than anybody else, but this is also implying that this voter has similar knowledge about the intangible value of other non-Ranger players in the league, which I doubt is true at all. This voter likely has no clue how V-Mart or Bautista or Sabathia or Ellsbury's intangibles have affected their teams. With this logic, you can really make a case for MVP for any player. Just say screw the numbers, Andruw Jones was such a damn great intangible leader off the bench for the Yankees that he should be the MVP. You can't quantify how much that veteran presence meant to the team. Obviously that would be a crazy stance to take, but if you are willing to accept intangibles as a major factor in value, then you can't dismiss this possible argument.

It's not fair to a player like V-Mart, who's MVP case would probably be similar to Young's, to say that one guy's intangibles are so obviously better than another's. But we can look at the numbers and say that, hell, Michael Young wasn't even the best player on the Rangers team this year. Napoli, Kinsler, Beltre, Hamilton, Andrus, Wilson, Harrison, and Ogando all had better years than Michael Young. I find it so hard to believe that every single one of these guys has such shitty intangible value that Michael Young's intangibles pushes his value ahead of every single one of them.

And that's not even getting into how much of a joke it is to compare Young's year to the years of the real heavy-hitting MVP candidates like Ellsbury, Bautista, Verlander, Cabrera, Granderson, blah blah blah.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, my comments were coming from a non-Rangers fan perspective. I understand how they treasure him more. From an outsider's perspective, I don't understand the love as much. I can accept he shut his mouth during the season and played very well, but he seems to be getting MVP votes for getting over a situation he caused. That's just insane to me.

When a writer doesn't know what to say about a player and wants to over-compliment him. He may have great intangibles in the locker room, but the idea he got over a situation of his own causing and this is why he is the MVP is madness.

You can further any argument using intangibles because they can't be measured and "you don't know how important Player X is because you aren't in the locker room!"

Maybe Granderson got the Yankees through this year or maybe Avila held the Tigers pitching staff together and that means they should be MVP. My basic point is Michael Young shouldn't get MVP votes because he quit whining about not getting what he wanted in the offseason and became a great teammate. It just doesn't work that way.

Even ignoring the use of intangibles for Young's candidacy, his numbers are overshadowed by other AL player's stats.