|Young an Unsung Hero for Rangers||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on October 25, 2011
When we think of the Texas Rangers' potent offense, names like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli automatically come to mind.
It's been, however, old veteran Michael Young who has anchored the team's offense. Though Young wound up having one of the best seasons of his career, much uncertainty surrounded him this past offseason.
In search of another potent bat, the Rangers signed slugging third baseman Adrian Beltre to a five-year deal to add some more punch to the lineup -- as if they didn't have enough already.
In looking at their roster after the Beltre signing, Young, who basically has been the face of the franchise his whole career, was viewed as expendable. Despite being a fan-favorite and consistent player, the Rangers explored trade possibilities.
Young was 34 at the start of last offseason, but he really hadn't shown any signs of slowing down. He dealt with a few injuries in 2010, which caused his numbers to drop slightly, but at least he had his track record on his side. However, loyalty really means nothing in the game of baseball today.
The Colorado Rockies were heavily involved in a possible trade for Young. He would have taken over their second base job and likely would have thrived hitting at Coors Field. The Florida Marlins and New York Mets also had a degree of interest in bringing in Young.
Speculation wavered and waned, but a deal could not be worked out with any of the teams. The Rangers in the meantime brought in Yorvit Torrealba and Mike Napoli, who were expected to split catching and DH duties.
So where would Young play?
He obviously made the active roster, and manager Ron Washington had the luxury of a player who could play anywhere in the infield. Once Napoli settled into the catching role, Young became the primary DH. Though once again that wasn't his ideal situation, he never complained and played hard everyday.
Despite all the offseason trade talk, Young had his best season in a few years. He was selected to the AL All-Star team, which has become a perennial occurrence.
Though the majority of his playing time was at DH, he appeared in games at third base, shortstop, second base and first base. But through it all, Young continued his prowess for hitting.
He finished third in the AL with a .338 batting average and drove in a career-high 106 runs. Though his power numbers were down (11 home runs), he tied Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez for the league lead in hits with 213.
Ironically, Young went from a player on the trading block to appearing in 159 of the team's 162 games. He's also been the cleanup hitter on the team with arguably the best offense this postseason.
Even more valuable than his performance on the field, it's been his contributions in the clubhouse that have left a greater impact on the Rangers. While he could have put up a stink, he merely did his job each day, which has helped Texas earn trips to back-to-back World Series.
In an interview with AtHomePlate this past summer, Young's former teammate Frank Catalanotto called Young "a great teammate and friend and an even better leader in the clubhouse." Catalanotto himself was a good clubhouse guy, so for him to credit Young as the leader means a great deal.
Maybe this offseason's trade rumors motivated Young to prove he still has what it takes to be a productive Major Leaguer. Either way, his consistency and leadership skills have allowed him to be one of the true unsung heroes of not only 2011, but of the last decade.