Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thoughts on MY

This Michael Young imbroglio is really on my mind. I have come to terms with the Rangers spending the last several years “regrouping” and “rebuilding” and doing the annual dance of:

1) Signing guys to 1 year deals who have little or no place in the big scheme of things, so that,

2) In July, we can trade those same guys for another Baseball America-ranked prospect, so that,

3) Sometime in the next 36 months, we can honestly and realistically compete for a Division Crown.

The problem, for me, has always been complicated. First, I don’t like how the 36 month window actually never begins. Trust me, I can find documentation that will prove that in 2004 this team was projecting to compete in 2007. And each subsequent year, the window moves. Therefore, in 2008, we were hearing of 2010. And you wait, in 2009….

Second, there has been very little reason to watch Rangers games once they run out of contention. I know some of you watch the perpetual Mark DeRosa, David Dellucci, Frank Catalanotto, Ramon Vazquez show. You may enjoy watching journeymen play out the string, but I need a little something more to sink my teeth into. I need hope. I need, in the words of the great Brett Michaels, something to believe in.

Enter, the men worthy of your belief. Now, it is Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, and Michael Young. Guys who we all know will be a part of the next winner in Texas, right? Well, back to 2005, weren't we told that the infield of Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira, and Mike Young will be a big part of the next winner?

And, slowly, those players who are your nucleus disappear. Some, play their way out of their role (Blalock), whereas others play so well, for so long, that they become too expensive and play their way out of your payroll (Teixeira). The sad truth is, there seems to be no middle ground. No Dirk of the franchise, if you will.

And this is where the disconnect begins for many of the fans. Sure, Jamey Newberg is unwavering in his faith as the faces change at a rapid pace, and there are many others like him…I cannot cope with a franchise that sells the next guy and seldom tells me about the guys who are here now.

But, they did tell me about Michael Young. They sold me long ago. And now, it appears like a break-up may be around the corner. My favorite Ranger, one of my very few choices because they can’t keep anyone in a Rangers uniform for 4 years anymore, has said he wants out.

The Rangers renewed their vows to Young just 22 months ago, and it was one of those rare commitments from this team that seemed to say to the fans that it is ok to feel safe - that while names are going to change elsewhere - go ahead and buy your #10 jersey, because he is staying.

So, is this mess their fault? Isn’t it fair to ask him to move for the team? And, if asked, have we ever heard one word about Mike being unreasonable and selfish and sorry?

What the heck is going on here? Why does it look like the face of the franchise is now going the same way as A-Rod, Tex, Rogers, and others who on the way out the door, the public had been swayed against them?

Nolan: Fix this. It is clear that Jon Daniels and Tom Hicks do not have an easy way with words to articulate difficult messages properly. But, this team cannot afford to look silly again.

Michael Young needs to be a part of 2009 and beyond. 3B? Fine with me. SS? Maybe. DH? Why not. The position is the details that these rich men need to settle like men. Not through talk radio and message boards. Figure it out.
To me, another trade for another kid that we will all be assured will be awesome in 2012 is NOT an option.

JD tries to settle everyone down

General manager Jon Daniels is quite aware of the situation but still believes it can be resolved and Michael Young will be with the Rangers in 2009.

"I still believe there is a likelihood that we can come together on this and put it
behind us," Daniels said Monday morning. "We want to have further discussions with Mike and talk to him about it. We're all preparing for Michael to be an integral part of our team going forward. That's how we're preparing and that's my expectations."

But Daniels is also clear about where he wants Young to play in 2009.
"We're preparing for him to play third base," Daniels said. "We'll have further discussions with Michael, but we feel this is in the best interests of the club."
Young, a five-time All-Star at shortstop, is adamantly opposed to the move and has asked the Rangers to trade him. Texas has had some discussions with other teams, but there is nothing imminent or close enough to lead them to believe a trade can be made.

The Rangers want to move Young to third because they believe Elvis Andrus is their shortstop of the future. Young is unhappy because he felt there was no choice in the matter.

"I know how it was presented to me and I felt I was never given the opportunity to keep my job," Young said. "Maybe we could work this out if it was a two-way street, but I haven't seen that yet."

Andrus is considered a premium defensive shortstop even though he has yet to play above Double-A and committed 32 errors in 118 games at Frisco. There are some within the organization who feel he could use more time at Triple-A Oklahoma, but there is no doubt he is considered to be the Rangers' shortstop of the future. Texas doesn't have a third baseman of the future.

Daniels said he didn't think the Rangers were being too forceful in presenting the situation to Young.

"Obviously, Michael took issue with the word choice that I used, but I also wanted to put it honestly," Daniels said. "Clearly this was the direction we felt we needed to go. Rather than sugarcoat it, I thought it was the best course of action to be honest and lay it out the way we wanted it to happen.

"I completely understand his sentiments, but I don't agree with the term that we're tearing his job away from him. If anything, we're asking him to take on a more prominent role. Not necessarily moving from short to third -- you can argue that either way. We're asking him not only to play third base but also help a 20-year-old shortstop who could benefit from his experience and knowledge of the game. That's a big reason why we think it will work."

Adam Morris says everything I am thinking better than I could say it

Now...taking a step back, looking at this from an unemotional, purely left-brain standpoint, is dumping Young and his contract good for the Rangers, long-term? Particularly if he's going to refuse to switch positions?

Quite possibly.

But from the softer standpoint, in terms of p.r., in terms of fan goodwill, in terms
of the impact on the players in the locker room and selling the team to free agents that you are trying to get to come here for less than what they think is fair, is this a good thing?

No. It is a disaster. Try selling Ben Sheets on the notion that he should come and try to rehabilitate his marketability in Texas after you've just given away one of the most respected players in the game after an ugly public breakup.

And from Young's standpoint, I have to think that part of the frustration is that he doesn't understand why now, all of the sudden, after everything that's gone on historically with this franchise, he's the one they draw the line in the sand with.

I'm sure he remembers when he first was coming up, and had to move from shortstop to second base because of the Alex Rodriguez signing. He remembers when Mark Teixeira came up, and had to DH because Rafael Palmeiro was here and wanted to be the first baseman. He remembers how the Rangers wooed Carlos Delgado, promising that if he'd sign with Texas, the organization would make Teixeira go back to DHing again. He remembers how Alfonso Soriano threw a fit over moving to shortstop, and how he defused the Soriano situation by volunteering instead. And how the organization went ahead and simply traded Soriano two years later, rather than force the situation by making him change positions. And how the organization seemingly decided that, since Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't like playing first base, they weren't going to make him play first base anymore, but would just let him catch.

I'm sure he looks at this past season, and sees Milton Bradley, who played when he felt like it, didn't play when he didn't feel physically up to it, but refused to go on the d.l. and forced the team to play short-handed, sees a guy who was here only one season that the manager catered to. I'm sure he looks at Vicente Padilla, and sees a guy who couldn't be counted on to go take the mound every fifth day, whose neck was hurting or who had a twinge or who otherwise couldn't be counted on, but who again was catered to and not put on the d.l.

I'm sure he sees this organization as historically, during the time he's been here, bending over backwards to cater to and coddle players, particularly (but not always) veterans. And I'm sure he's now wondering why it is that, all of the sudden, they decide to take a hard-line position with him, the guy who has sacrificed and done all the right things and played hurt and played hard and done everything the team wanted.

And I think he saw how the organization caved and moved Alex Rodriguez when he
caused a fuss, and caved and moved Mark Teixeira when he made it clear he didn't want to be here, and figured, it worked for them...no reason why it shouldn't work for me.

This is just one more chapter in the embarrassing history of this organization. And as I said at the beginning, there's no way for this to be resolved without besmirching everyone involved. The organization looks bad. Michael Young looks bad.

And really, management looks even more incompetent for handing out that huge contract extension before the 2007 season. It was widely criticized for being too much for a guy who simply wasn't that good, but was justified from a p.r./marketing/soft factor standpoint. But if you are going to give out a huge contract because you don't want to take the p.r. hit that would result from letting the guy go, if you are going to make him the Face of the Franchise and the center of what you are trying to do...

You can't do that and then, less than two years later, before the contract has even kicked in, decide you made a huge mistake and try to dump him on whomever will take him, even if it means picking up a good chunk of his contract. That is, quite simply, utter incompetence, and it makes you wonder what happened, what the thought process was, that went from thinking 5 years, $80 million being a good idea in early 2007, to thinking it is a totally unpalatable, unmitigated disaster that is going to require subsidizing to get off the books less than two years later, the baseball equivalent of mortgage backed securities.

I hope everyone involved in this thing is embarrassed. Because really, watching all this unfold, and really thinking about it, it makes it embarrassing to be a Ranger fan.

But then, that's a feeling I guess we are all used to by now.

Although I seldom agree with him, I always like Mike Hindman’s viewpoints including this one

In the first year of his five-year, $80 million contract, Michael Young has been asked to move from shortstop to third base to help the Rangers move forward with their rebuilding plan. He won't be working on learning how to defend the new position. He's already punted the glove and talked himself into believing that the Rangers are paying him all of that money to fill out the lineup card.

But, it turns out that the $16 million AAV contract Young signed didn't include a guarantee that he would be allowed to pick his position or place in the batting order and it's unlikely that Nolan Ryan will cede such power to good player whose best days are probably behind him.

In spite of winning a Gold Glove last year, according to fielding bible creator John Dewan "Young claims last place in three-year plus/minus, three-year zone ratings, team hits allowed near the shortstop position...and he's second to last in Bill James' new relative range plus/minus. Not good."

At the plate, Young can no longer be considered -- by objective data -- to be an elite hitter at his position and his value seems to be rapidly diminishing. His OPS has slid from .898 in 2005, to .815 in 2006, .784 in 2007 and a woeful .741 last year (11th among 17 qualifying MLB shortstops).

With his bat and glove both in decline, it's pretty clear that if Michael Young is going to deliver anywhere near $16 million of annual value to the Rangers -- or anybody else -- a large part of it is going to have to be in terms of intangibles. Being around, taking in the kids and showing them the way a big leaguer handles things, standing as an example of supreme professionalism.

Young has, in most ways, been an exemplary player and person for several years around here, as I'm pretty sure young stars like Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton would attest. Last season, he sucked it up and played through a broken finger. Kudos for that. He's demonstrated virtually every admirable quality one could want in a representative of a franchise, but now even that element of Young's game seems to be in decline.

As I wrote last fall, Young's contract would eventually turn out to be an albatross for the Rangers franchise. I had assumed that it would turn out to be in the form of his failure to deliver anywhere near $16 million of value to the club over the course of his contract. Now, it seems, it will be in terms of making the unpleasant decision between holding on to a disgruntled, declining veteran or attempting to trade an untradable contract.

Durrett points out the contract is not as bad as it looks

There's been talk about Michael Young's $80 million extension and that it's $16 million over the next five seasons. But that doesn't account for signing bonus money that Young already has or the deferred money he's owed starting in 2016.

Here's the breakdown of Young's salary:

He's owed $59 million in salary the next five seasons. That's $11 million in 2009 and 2010, $12 million in 2011 and 2012 and $13 million in 2013.

A total of $9.24 million is deferred. That's $870,000 in 2009 and 2010 and $2.5 million in 2011-2013.

So while this is still not a favorable contract by which to trade Young, it is possible the Rangers could trade him and agree to pay the deferred amount. So $59 million is a lot less than $80 million. Just a thought.


Jared said...

I don't get it. Why is it on the FO to fix this? How about a call to MY to stop being a prima donna? How about a call to MY to act like the consummate team player he's always been made out to be?

Jared in Irving

fickle said...

I'm sure I'll sound like a conspiracy theorists, but it sounds like a lot of journalists are taking the Rangers' talking points and accepting them as un-scrutinized fact.

Remember when the team started circulating that Pudge didn't work well with pitchers, especially young ones? The radio, tv, and newspapers all started to echo the mantra, "Pudge is only concerned about baserunners, not working with pitchers."

Well, we learned in 2003 as we watched him get credit for masterfully working with the Marlins young staff that we had been lied to. We were also told by the team (through the journalists) that Pudge was breaking down and only had a few more years in him. He proved that wrong, too.

Now we're hearing the same talking points circulate about Young. . . he's diminishing, he's overpaid, he underperforms, he's old. B.S. Ask the other players in the league what they think. . . actually, you don't need to. They let you know every summer when THEY vote him into the All-Star game.

Young was injured this year and played through it. His numbers were a little off, but his heart and dedication more than made up for that. He is inspiring. He is a great player. He is a great face for the team. He does it all the right way.

By the way - don't forget that Nolan is outnumbered. Tom Hicks owns the thing and JON HART (kill me) is still the Rangers Senior Advisor!!! (I had forgotten he was alive until he showed up on Hot Stove on the MLB Network last night.) Then you have Jon Daniels doing his best to make sure we never get tot he post season. I'm really starting to think that Nolan is here as a puff-piece. . . to distract the fans a couple of more seasons while the team continues to decompose.