FOX Sports Exclusive
Reliable Young eager to make postseason
SURPRISE, Ariz.The Texas Rangers are going to make the playoffs. It might not happen this year. But it’s going to happen soon.
And as the champagne splashes onto the cellophane, everyone will be watching Michael Young.
He might be more deserving of a postseason berth than any other player in the major leagues.
Young has made six All-Star teams in a row, which tells you something. He had at least 200 hits in each season from 2003 through 2007, which tells you even more.
|Source: STATS LLC|
There’s only one blank spot on his halfway-to-Cooperstown résumé.
Young doesn’t know what it’s like to clinch a division title, to put on a pair of goofy goggles for a clubhouse celebration, to douse unsuspecting teammates with cans of chilled beer.
Does he wonder how that would feel, to be the douse-r or the douse-e?
"All the time," Young said this week. "What would it be like? A dogpile in front of our home fans. Have a little party in the clubhouse when it’s all over with.
"It’s something I think about a lot. It has been tough over the years. But it’s made me a little hungrier. Hopefully, it’ll make everything that much sweeter when the good times come."
Young ranks third among active major-leaguers in games played without appearing in the postseason, according to STATS LLC. He is at 1,351 and counting, which puts him behind only Randy Winn (1,601) and Mike Sweeney (1,398).
Young, Winn and Sweeney would probably appear on a top 10 list of baseball’s good guys, too. But in this case, Young can’t wait to take leave of their company and move into the neighborhood where Don Mattingly (1,785) and Julio Franco (1,770) took up residence after long waits of their own.
Young, 33, belongs in the playoffs. He has given nearly 10 years of service to the Rangers, more than any other current player, having arrived in a July 19, 2000, trade with the Blue Jays. I don’t believe Esteban Loaiza won enough games for Toronto to justify the deal.
He has played for four managers: Johnny Oates, Jerry Narron, Buck Showalter, and now Ron Washington. He has switched positions twice in the majors – from second base to shortstop when Alex Rodriguez was traded, and from short to third when Elvis Andrus emerged.
Michael Young has made six All-Star teams in a row.
Young wasn’t happy about moving from shortstop at first. In fact, he asked to be traded. He won a Gold Glove at the position in 2008, even though some statisticians might question whether he deserved it. But Young ultimately accepted the team’s decision and mentored Andrus during a terrific rookie season.
Young’s magnanimous manner and reliable play – he batted .322, fifth in the AL – helped Texas to its first winning season since 2004.
"He knows the power that he has over people, with the way he plays the game," Washington said. "People follow him. Whatever they’ve got, he can bring it out of them. This is his team. That’s a potential Hall of Famer.
"He’s not rah-rah, but people flock to him. He’s got a magnetism about him. He can tell people, 'Come on, let’s go get it done.’"
Young seems to do everything right. C.J. Wilson, the Rangers’ opinionated left-hander, calls him "the most remarkably consistent teammate I’ve had in my life."
He leaves his home in Dallas at the same time (2:30 p.m.) before every night game. He regularly hits off a tee. He reviews video of his at-bats from the previous game. He watches scouting film of the opposing pitcher.
(Not on the pregame task list: talking about himself. "I’m a big, big, big shut-up-and-play guy," he explained.)
And when the game is done – even if he played nine innings, even if the game-time temperature was a humid 98 degrees – Wilson will frequently see Young in the weight room.
There is a purpose to everything he does.
"Super-focused," Wilson said. "He’s got the exact opposite of ADD."
Yet, he hasn’t been rewarded with much good fortune. Consider what happened on Sept. 1 last year: Even as the Rangers closed to within 3 ½ games in the AL wildcard standings, Young suffered a badly strained left hamstring during an all-out run to first.
He had only 21 plate appearances over the rest of the season. Perhaps his best chance at a postseason berth was gone, as the Rangers fell far behind the Red Sox in the AL wildcard standings.
And it all happened on a play that didn’t matter.
Only that’s not the way Young sees it.
"No regrets, man," he said. "I got hurt playing hard. Routine ball to short, busted down the line, not going to change a thing."
Shouldn’t effort like that count for something?
Shouldn’t there be a reward for this guy?
Is one October too much to ask?
The way I see it, the fans have missed out on watching someone who might otherwise be one of the premier postseason performers of his generation.
Look at what Young has already done with Messrs. Buck and McCarver on the call: a .333 average (4-for-12) and two notable star turns in the Midsummer Classic.
Pittsburgh, 2006: He triples off Hall of Fame-bound Trevor Hoffman with two out in the ninth, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 American League win.
New York, 2008: He ends the 15-inning epic with a sacrifice fly. But for a laser throw to the plate by Nate McLouth, his single to center would have ended the night four innings earlier.
Young is clutch. He has a .328 career batting average with runners in scoring position. This guy has his best at-bats when it matters most. How else can you explain his '06 season, when he drove in 103 runs despite hitting only 14 homers?
In October, he would be Jeter-esque.
"I love hitting in big situations," Young said. "I always have. Guys in scoring position, big moments of the game – I’m really not afraid of failing. I just get up there and cut loose."
And as long as he keeps swinging, his autumn dreams are going to come true. The pitching will fall in line, the Angels will have a bad year, and Young will get his chance to play cold-weather baseball on a field with the extra logos behind home plate.
So if it all comes to pass this year, if he finds himself in the middle of a champagne downpour, what will he do?
Flush a decade of disappointment by dumping a bottle of Dom on Nolan Ryan’s head?
"I know the way I’m wired," Young said, smiling. "I’d probably cut loose for a few minutes, have a little party in the clubhouse, and then bring everybody together and say, ‘Keep our eye on the prize.’"
Just to clarify …
"After 10 years," he added, "I’d definitely cut loose for a little bit."
More Stories From Jon Paul Morosi