Replacing Michael Young’s production doesn’t figure to be that difficult for the Texas Rangers.
Any fan of WAR can tell you that Young was one of the worst players in the American League in 2012 when you look at his numbers (his -2.4 was a career worst). His .277 average was his worst since 2002. His RBI total of 67 was dismal, especially considering he hit in the heart of the order of one of baseball’s most potent lineups.
And then there’s his defense, which fell off as Young aged. His range when he played was somewhat diminished, as were the reactions of the 36-year-old.
Despite all of that, the Rangers are going to find it next to impossible to replace Young, who waived his no-trade clause Saturday and agreed to be traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.
His clubhouse impact is that important.
“He’s the first guy I got to meet when I got to the big leagues,” said Texas Rangers left hander Derek Holland. “He was like a brother as well as a father figure. He’s had that big of an impact. He’s helped me on and off the field. He’s helped me progress as a player and a man.”
Holland’s quote could probably have been attributed to any number of players who have come in and out of the clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark over the past 12 seasons.
When the Rangers made the trade for Cliff Lee during their first World Series run in 2010, Texas manager Ron Washington came into the clubhouse and notified the players. It was Young who gave the deal the seal of approval and it was Young who was the first to greet Lee when he arrived in Arlington.
The trade for Mike Napoli before the 2011 season looked as if it were going to cut into Young’s playing time. When Napoli showed up in Surprise for the first time, it was Young who sought him out. Once Napoli got to Arlington, his locker in the clubhouse was right next to Young’s.
The Rangers never officially named Young a team captain but it’s obvious he was. Other players called him Ranger Man. And Face, as in Face of the Franchise.
That’s a fitting name too. Young is the franchise leader in games played, hits, runs, doubles, triples, total bases and multi-hit games. He’s meant as much to the franchise as Pudge Rodriguez and Nolan Ryan.
Detractors will say that if Young was such a leader, why did he demand a trade when the Rangers decided to put Elvis Andrus at shortstop in 2009 or Adrian Beltre at third in 2011? Can you fault a player who believes he can still be an everyday contributor if he feels like that’s not going to be the case?
Young responded to the move to third base after Andrus took over at short by hitting .322 with 22 home runs and made the All-Star team. When he was moved to the super utility spot after Beltre took over at third base in 2011, Young had one of the best seasons of his career and finished eighth in the All-Star voting. There was no sulking into the season. Just steady Young-like production, something that became a staple of him since he took over as a full-time player in 2001.
The anti-Young faction thinks the media gives Young more credit than he deserves. Maybe that’s the case. But it’s hard not to like a guy who you could go to for a quote after every game, whether it was when the Rangers were a last-place team, a first-place team or a team that was one pitch from winning a World Series twice.
He was always there, always accountable.
There have been other clubhouse leaders for the Rangers, but there hasn’t been a need for one for most of the last decade because Young has filled that role.
Around baseball the Rangers are known for having one of the best clubhouses in baseball and a lot of that has had to do with Young.
Whoever the Rangers add this offseason, whether it be re-signing Josh Hamilton or trading for Justin Upton, it’s also important they find a guy who can take over that role in the clubhouse.
It could be Ian Kinsler, who is now the veteran Ranger, having been with the club since 2006. It helps that he learned about the game from Young, who had the locker just to the right of him in the clubhouse. It could be David Murphy, who is another stand-up player in the Texas clubhouse. It could be Joe Nathan or Holland or Matt Harrison or Adrian Beltre.
It could be a lot of players. It just better be someone. If not, the Rangers will find out just how difficult it truly is to replace Young.