For Young, it's business as usual
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Michael Young is surprised to still be with the Rangers, he isn't saying. If he's especially upset at the situation, he isn't saying that either -- at least not out loud. Young is the consummate pro, and he knows it is now time to get down to business. And that means the business of preparing to be a Ranger for this coming season.
He said what he had to say, and he doesn't feel the need to repeat himself.
"My thoughts haven't changed," Young says. He is of course referring to the fact that he wanted to be traded and felt he wasn't given the straight story by general manager Jon Daniels this winter about whether the Rangers were trying to trade him or trying to replace him.
Daniels approached Young this spring, offering to talk things out behind closed doors, an offer Young rejected. He is still annoyed by what he considers a lack of candor from Daniels, who speaks for the organization as the club's GM.
"We're all adults. We're all responsible for own actions," Young said.
Young refers to the issue as a communication problem ("there were a lot of things from a communications standpoint that went bad," he says), making clear any anger has nothing to do with the Rangers' decision to sign star third baseman Adrian Beltre. Beltre was imported to Texas for a guaranteed $80 million over five years (the same as Young's deal in 2007) and possibly $96 million over six to take Young's position.
"I like Adrian. I've got a lot of respect for Adrian," Young said. "I wouldn't in a million years want to drag him into this. He doesn't deserve that.
"The last thing I want to do is disrupt my teammates by rehashing this publicly," Young also said. "A lot of my teammates know how I feel. To my teammates, I'm an open book. That's how you build loyalty."
Whether that "open book" comment was meant as a subtle dig at the Rangers, Young wasn't saying. But few players are as adept with language as Young, the cornerstone player who'd have a right to feel slightly marginalized after losing his position -- and potentially a few at-bats as well. He hit 21 home runs and 91 RBIs in 2010, but the .300 lifetime hitter was somewhat dissatisfied with his .284 batting average. It wasn't his best year, but not many stars are replaced after off years like that.
But again, it wasn't the replacement that irked Young. Late in the winter Young publicly suggested Daniels was untruthful to him in a surprisingly stark statement. The statement came after an offseason in which the Rangers acquired Beltre to take his third-base job and Mike Napoli to potentially cut into his at-bats. He understands the acquisitions -- "They have a job to do,'' Young said -- but is angered by the communication gap (though he is choosing not to try to close it by meeting with Daniels, who dealt with Young's agent Dan Lozano all winter).
Young, it is suggested in camp, remains an everyday player, although he is without a position. The phrase "it's up to Wash," (meaning manager Ron Washington) is heard daily regarding Young's status. His position may be DH one day, first base another and DH another, though DH looks like the spot with the most playing time.
"I really have no idea," he answered when asked where he's going to play day-to-day. "One thing I learned from this offseason is I really don't have the finger on the pulse of these type of things."
Young has been the rock of the franchise, and he was the guy who stood up and led the charge to support Washington when, a year ago, SI.com revealed that the manager failed a test for cocaine the previous summer. Young's been a very positive influence on the team for years, though one Rangers person (not Daniels) did note that this is the second time he has requested a trade, the first coming when he was moved from shortstop to third base in 2009. Young isn't complaining about the Rangers' decision this time, but others might wonder why they needed to get a third baseman, even a great third baseman like Beltre, when Young wasn't a detriment. One scout called him "adequate" at third, but that's certainly not a liability that needed to be addressed.
One thing seems pretty likely at this point: Young is likely to remain a Ranger, whether that's his first choice or not. Interested teams, which included the Rockies, who liked him for second base and as a clubhouse leader, wanted Texas to pay about half the $48 million remaining on his contract and were unwilling to provide the type of talent Texas sought. (A source close to the Rockies said the Rangers sought a "very good player" for Young but didn't elaborate). The defending American League champion Rangers are a very strong team and have no intention of weakening themselves less than a month before Opening Day by trading Young for prospects or a weak return.
He isn't talking again about whether he'd rather or stay or go. He says, "I'm just trying to prepare myself to have a good year."
Daniels, for his part, has also shifted his focus to the season ahead.
"There's not much more to say. I've got my feelings on how it's been portrayed ... but it's in the best interests of the organization to let it rest and to move on," the well-respected Daniels said.
With Beltre still nursing a sore calf, Young was back at his old third base spot on Wednesday, but with no expectation or hope of staying there indefinitely. Beltre is said to be out up to two weeks, though one source suggested his absence could be as much as a month.
"Hopefully, he'll get back as quickly as possible," Young said. "I'm not trying to capitalize on an opportunity created by someone else getting hurt. That's not the kind of teammate I am."