So far the Tavern has covered a few miles. We started in Cincinnati. Went about 708 miles to Target Field in the Twin Cities. Our trip this week takes us to Arlington, Texas and Ameriquest Field, home of the Texas Rangers. If you’re using a GPS, it’s about 958 from Target Field .
So, from Minny to Arlington we go. It’s also the home of a player that after over a decade of baseball in Arlington and playing in over 1,500 games as a member of the Texas Rangers, will finally be playing in the postseason for the very first time. That Ranger would be Michael Young.
When most think of the Texas Rangers baseball club, very rarely does Young’s name get mentioned, if at all. Nolan Ryan is the name you used to hear the most. You may hear Ian Kinsler, Vladamir Guererro, Elvis Andrus. Today, the name heard with most frequency is Josh Hamilton, an American League MVP candidate. Legit, but it’s really unfortunate.
There’s really not a better person for the Rangers to place on their media guide cover than Young. Most clubs select a player that’s popular, not only locally, but nationally as well. They may choose a player that had a breakout season the year before. In all honesty, no one player within the Rangers organization screams of being a Texas Rangers ballplayer more than Michael Young. He’s practically “lifer”. Young came to Texas in a 2000 deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays sent Young and Darwin Cubillan to the Rangers in exchange for Esteban Loaiza (remember him?). Young is one person that I feel has donned the Rangers uniform with class and dignity.
And Young has always seemed to have played the game in a bit of obscurity. The one event that people most associate with him is the 2006 All-Star Game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Entering the bottom of the ninth inning, the American League was trailing 2-1. It was looking like the National League was finally going to break through and end years of AL dominance. Young, who was a shortstop at the time, entered the game in the bottom of the fifth as a second baseman, his “old” position (we’ll get to that a bit later, too).
Anyway, NL closer Trevor Hoffman had retired the first two batters on five pitches leaving all AL hope on Troy Glaus. Glaus singled and Paul Konerko followed with a ground rule double. Jose Lopez was sent to run for Konerko and that brought Young to the plate. Two outs and runners on second and third. After two strikes, Young lined a Hoffman pitch into center field plating both Glaus and Lopez. Young would end up at third and his triple gave the AL a 3-2 lead. Young would be voted the game’s MVP. His claim to fame to this point.
Those that are “in the know” as far as baseball in concerned completely recognize Young’s offensive prowess. In a run beginning with the 2003 season and ending with the 2007 season, Young accumulated over 200 hits each year. The most hits Young managed was 221 in 2005, Young’s best overall offensive season. During that same period of time, Young also maintained a batting average over .300 each season with 2005 also being his career best of .331.
When it comes to Young receiving year-end honors, he’s also in the obscure world. The highest the writers have ever voted Young in any MVP balloting is 8th back in 2004. That would be the only time Young would crack the top 10 in MVP voting. New Rangers teammate Guererro won the award that season. In Young’s fantastic season of 2005 (.331 BA, 24 HR, 94 RBI, 221 hits, 114 runs), he could only manage 11th place.
And Young can play a bit of defense, too. Despite not being recognized as one of the AL’s better fielders, Young was honored with a Gold Glove in 2008 as a shortstop.The following season, Young was asked to move to third base to make way for Elvis. Elvis Andrus, that is. The move wasn’t kind, but not in the way you would expect.
When a player is moved to a new defensive position, the offense suffers. Not in that case of Michael Young. Young has switched positions twice in his career. In 2004, Young moved from second base to short. In 2009 was the move to third to accommodate Andrus being on the club as the shortstop. For the 2004 season Young hit .313 with 22 home runs and 99 RBI. In 2009, Young sported another .300+ season with a .322 to go along with 22 homers and 68 RBI. The Rangers third baseman was well on his way to achieving his best offensive season when it was derailed in September. A hamstring issued forced Young to the role spectator early in the month. An attempted comeback was stalled after only one at-bat.
You can “complain” that he’s only batting .284 this season (his career batting average is right at .300), but there’s another aspect of Young that goes largely unnoticed. He plays. He rarely misses a game. In fact, with this being his tenth full season in the majors, Young has only played less than 150 games in two of those ten years (2001 & 2009). Whoever is at the helm of the Rangers (Ron Washington, Buckshowalter, Jerry Narron), all the skipper has to do is scribble “Young, 5″ on the lineup card. He only needs to find where in the lineup Young will fit best, usually second behind Andrus this season. It’s a virtual lock he’s playing. That’s a valuable asset for any manager to have.
Unappreciated and underrated (except by Rangers fans) Young remains a key weapon on the Texas offense. You see, Michael Young just plays the game. He quietly goes about his work without any fanfare. He’s that silent leader both on the field and in the clubhouse. Michael Young is the type of player I root for. He’s not the type of player to strike a pose after every home run he hits. He’s not the type of player that makes some sort of gesture that could upstage his opponents. He’s not the type of player to strut around after a big play to show those watching that he’s done something spectacular.
Not in his DNA. Not in his makeup.
He’s not a slugger. He’s not a speedster. Michael Young is a just baseball player.