By Will Martin
He belongs in the conversation right next to and perhaps beyond Pudge!
His demeanor, style, grace, class, work ethic was never in question. Even when the front office didn’t want to have him around.
He was the heart and soul of the Texas Rangers from 2001-2012. He was even willing to learn a new position to appease the higher ups when a new talent came to Arlington Texas. Time and again…
For a solid seven years I lived half a block from the Ballpark in Arlington and for seven solid years I saw an old school performer from a different era.
This fan went to 70-75 games a year from 2004-2010 long before it was cool to be a bandwagoning wanna be frontloader of a Rangers fan.
2005 was an amazing year for Michael Young. 221 hits and a .331 batting average which was good enough to win the batting title that year for a 79-83 ballclub under Buck Showalter. 2006 he was another along a line of Texas Rangers to deliver the big hit in an All-Star game. That year was in Pittsburgh in the 8th or 9th inning. Down to his last strike the signature play by Michael Young came through.
Pitcher fires out and away…timing it perfectly with a flick of the wrists and a swing of the bat Michael Young would Wee Willie Keeler the National League (or any MLB opponent) and hit them where they ain’t. Having incredible ability to go to the opposite field with a triple and driving in two runs in a 3-2 win. That was Michael Young in a nutshell!
Also equally was Michael’s ability to be magnanimous and defer the credit to his players and coaches. This despite the fact that Michael Young was never wanted by the higher ups in the Texas Rangers.
Part of a deal back in 2000 that brought him to Arlington for Esteban Loaiza from Toronto we may never have heard much about the kid from West Covina, California. When Randy Velarde went down with injuries in early 2001 Michael Young began his odyssey with the Texas Rangers and never looked back!
A 14 year career in which Michael Young would average (yearly) 155 games, 651 at bats, 93 runs, 36 doubles, 5 triples, 15 home runs, 85 RBIs, seven stolen bases, 47 walks, 102 strikeouts, and a .300 batting average which wound up being his career number! 1970 career games started and 2,375 career hits.
Began by playing at second base before moving to short to make room for Alfonso Soriano. Then in 2009 took up third base when Elvis Andrus was slated to be the guy at short in 2009. And don’t forget how Michael Young was completely overlooked when John Daniels was looking to get Adrian Beltre while Michael awaited a contract status before being moved to first base and DH in 2011.
A decade plus of being dissed by the brass. What did Michael Young do in response? He came to play and played with such passion and grit and blue collar grind it out style that older peeps like me think back to the days before free agency when you played for the love of the game within the business.
I could write for days about the many highs and lows Michael Young has endured. Sure, Game 6 in the 2011 is as low as a Ranger fan can go. There was Opening Day 2004 against the Angels where Young made two throwing errors in the same inning of a 12-4 win at shortstop in his first game and got roundly booed. Motivation to just work harder.
I also remember a 15 inning game played at Yankee Stadium 7-14-08 when Michael Young got a sacrifice fly to bring in the game winning run and a home field advantage for the American League. Only once do I recall a fit of anger in his frustration. August of 2005 when he and Hank Blalock questioned the team wanting to be playoff caliber after a rough stretch in Cleveland.
Selfless, not self serving. A leader who led. He never wanted to leave Texas. He was a Ranger who loved playing for Ron Washington. He led in that clubhouse with all in-house matters. Hence it was no surprise that in 2012 and 2013 the Rangers only went as far as they did without a sense of leadership in the clubhouse and at the plate in the daily lineup.
It was announced on January 30th that Michael Young would be retiring from Major League Baseball. The announcement will be made official at 4pm January 31st at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Interesting in that when he left Texas he wasn’t given that same courtesy. Instead giving a speech from a hotel near Dallas.
Hands down the most popular Texas Ranger to stay and play when no one else wanted him to. Michael Young did it right and he earned my respect for the hundreds of ballpark visits I made in a decade. If indeed Nolan Ryan decides to pair up with the Houston Astros in 2014 the smartest thing the Rangers brass can do is to put Michael Young in some capacity in the front office.
Guaranteed way to keep the fane base from eroding and also reminding Texas just how far they have come from the old days of Nolan Ryan and ‘they don’t have pitching!’
Thank you Michael. Enjoy whatever you want to do next.