Michael Young, Texas Rangers' second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, first baseman, I mean designated hitter, has finally had enough.
The longest tenured player on the American League's defending champions has demanded a trade from the only Major League team he has ever known. Not only that, but he has finally broken his silence regarding his perception of the manner in which the Rangers have handled him in recent seasons.
Originally the Rangers' starting second baseman upon his ascension to the big league squad in 2001, Young made the transition to shortstop in a selfless move to accommodate the newly acquired Alfonso Soriano prior to the 2004 season. Short had recently been vacated by the departing Alex Rodriquez, who was heading to the Bronx in exchange for Soriano.
Young made the transition easily, dutifully serving as the Rangers' shortstop from 2004 to 2008, while being named to the American League All-Star squad in each of those five seasons. Much like Derek Jeter, his fellow All-Star shortstop, Young grew into a reputation as a quiet leader, a consummate teammate, and one of the the most respected players in the game.
The 2009 season saw Young cement his reputation as a team-oriented player as he once again switched positions, this time to allow the arrival of much-heralded youngster Elvis Andrus, thought by many to be the Rangers' star shortstop of the next decade. Initially, Young was reluctant, contemplating his own departure from Arlington, before finally relenting and moving to third base in favor of the superbly athletic Andrus.
Once again, Michael Young made a seamless transition, sliding over to third and being named an All-Star in his first year at the hot corner, then helping lead the team to their first World Series during his second year at the position. He was never a perfect third baseman, but continued hitting and performing his role as a team leader and face of the Rangers franchise.
Something didn't quite sit right with Rangers' management, however, as the team moved to upgrade third base with the free-agent signing of Adrian Beltre. While most cannot deny that Beltre is the superior third baseman, the acquisition left many wondering why the team had fixed a position that wasn't broken.
There was discussion of moving Young to first base, effectively blocking the development of the promising Mitch Moreland. While that was a possibility, it didn't necessarily make a lot of sense, and the talk turned to making Young the full-time DH. After all, Vlad Guerrero was assumed to be leaving via free agency, and Young's greatest asset had always been his bat.
At the time, Young had spoken out, saying that he would move to allow Beltre to assume his rightful place at third, and he would do whatever was best for the team, whether that meant playing first, designated hitter or serving as a super-utility player.
Not long after that selfless statement, he apparently changed his mind and decided that the latest move was one affront too many. When asked about it yesterday by Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports, 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 any more.”
Shortly after he agreed to DH, the Rangers acquired Mike Napoli, a catcher, but a player better suited for the DH role or first base. That move may have served as the proverbial "writing on the wall," but Young wouldn't admit that much when asked.
Again speaking to Rosenthal, Young refused to pinpoint a specific maneuver that served as the impetus, saying, “It wasn’t one specific thing, it had nothing to do with any other players. I certainly don’t want to drag other players into this. It’s not fair to them. It’s not necessarily important to reveal the details. I know how this thing unfolded.”
Rangers brass had earlier in the day attempted to place the blame on Young changing his mind after first agreeing to accept the move, but he moved quickly to offer his side of the story.
When Nolan Ryan and GM Jon Daniels told reporters that Young had simply changed his mind after initially accepting another positional change, Young responded, "The suggestion that I had a change of heart and asked for a trade is a manipulation of the truth.” Young added, "I asked for a trade because I’ve been misled and manipulated and I’m sick of it."
Apparently, the tension that many had long suspected, had been bubbling beneath the surface for some time. While Young had quietly taken the previous moves in stride, he could no longer deal with feeling like was being taken advantage of.
Being pressed for juicy quotes Young, as ever, took the high road, adding, “Other than that, I’m not going to reveal any details about how this process unfolded. It’s not my nature to start blasting people publicly when I don’t think it’s necessary. I don’t think it’s fair or productive for anybody, particularly my teammates and coaching staff."
Even in the face of what he perceived to be the final offense pushing him out the door, Michael Young remained the consummate professional and teammate.
Despite that well-earned reputation as one of baseball's good guys, even Young has his breaking point, and apparently the Rangers found it.
"This has been a long time coming based on things that occurred off the field. I’m sick of it. It hit a point where I felt it was unfair to me and my family," he said.
Rumors have been circulating around a potential trade of Young since the winter meetings, but public declarations from team president Nolan Ryan and manager Ron Washington seemed to indicate that Michael Young fit into the team's plans moving forward.
The Rockies, Angels and Cubs, among several others, have tested the waters regarding a possible deal for the former AL batting champ, but things seemed to have been smoothed out between the team and their longtime star.
With these recent developments, the Rangers front office is now plowing full steam ahead in an effort to trade their unsettled leader. Though the desire is there, the deal may actually be more difficult than expected, considering the three years and $48 million left on Young's contract. The Rangers are also unwilling to part with their star infielder in a deal that is less than beneficial to the club, so while he desperately wants out, he won't be given away in a mere salary dump.
Sadly, this unfortunate turn of events has turned the once stoic "face of the franchise" into a bitter, snarled visage intent upon presenting his version of the circumstances with a candor and acrimony rarely seen from the well-traveled star.
Though his travels have thus far been around his team's own infield, this time Michael Young may need more than just a different glove for his new job.
It remains to be seen how negative the rhetoric becomes on each side, as Young has given his side of the story rather frankly, we can likely expect a response from the Rangers' front office.
Despite declining to place blame or to give many details, Young did hint at a possible root of the issues, stating, "At the end of the day, I know the truth. And so does JD (GM Jon Daniels).”
And the Rangers better begin looking for a new face, because it doesn't look like they're going to be able to save this one.
All Michael Young quotes first appeared in Ken Rosenthal's article on Foxsports