Story turns sour for Young, Rangers
Texas won't be same team without veteran clubhouse leader
Just moments ago, it seems, we were all congratulating Michael Young on his willingness to take one for the team. It was another uplifting chapter in a very encouraging story.
Now it appears that Young is done with the concept of taking one for the team, in this case the Texas Rangers. You cannot necessarily blame him, but this story was a whole lot more heartwarming when Young was being remarkably selfless and he and the Rangers were one big, happy family.
Young has requested a trade from the Rangers. The origin of the issue here was the Rangers' signing of free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre in early January. With that signing, Young, the incumbent Texas third baseman, was asked to move into the designated hitter spot, in combination with a "super utility" role, in which he could fill in at each of the infield positions.
Young was initially OK with that; at least his public pronouncements indicated acceptance of the situation. And this generosity of spirit regarding his role on the Rangers seemed typical. Twice before he had been asked to change positions -- from second to short and then short to third -- and each time he had accepted with good grace.
Now, Young is asking for a trade. And he is doing so in terms likely to make a trade not only plausible but necessary. This is not, Young said, about being asked to be the DH.
"The suggestion that I've had a change of heart and asked for a trade is a manipulation of the truth," Young said Monday night. "I want to be traded because I have been manipulated and misled in this process and I'm not going to take it anymore."
Young did not get into details about the alleged manipulation and misleading, but he did say that he no longer thought it was possible that he could remain with the Rangers.
"I think a trade is going to happen," Young said. "The shame of this is I have a great group of teammates that I have grown to love. It's a shame this has come up when we should be focused on getting ready for the season."
Young's consistent production would make him a prime acquisition for many clubs, but his contractual status may not be helpful. Young, 34, has three years and $48 million remaining on his current contract.
The underlying issue for the Rangers is intangible. On paper they'll be fine with Beltre at third, and they have a depth of available talent. But Young is the recognized leader of this team, the clubhouse focal point.
The Rangers had notable strengths in 2010, as they won their first American League pennant, some of them clearly measurable and some of them not. In the second category was the kind of team unity that has become increasingly rare in professional sports. As the unofficial captain and frequently the equivalent of team spokesman, Young was a large part of that team chemistry. That kind of thing can be more difficult to replace than even the consistent offensive production.
Reportedly, Young has been upset because he believes that the Rangers have tried to trade him, while saying publicly that they were not interested in trading him. "I just don't like what has transpired behind the scenes," Young said.
In a more nearly perfect world, Michael Young would wear the uniform of the Texas Rangers until he retires, at which point he and the team would part ways in a genuine display of mutual respect and affection. But in this world, Michael Young becomes alienated and asks for a trade. What was one of baseball's best stories turns contentious.
The questions of which side is right, which is wrong, will be of obvious interest. But at the core of this issue is the notion that one way or another, the Texas Rangers won't be the same team without Michael Young. And they also won't be the same team with Michael Young departing as an angry, disappointed man, with a clubhouse full of his friends still on board.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.