The Good Life

Retiring Michael Young reminds Texas Rangers just how good they had it

Retiring Michael Young reminds Texas Rangers just how good they had it

Michael Young
Since Michael Young was traded in 2012, the Rangers have suffered from a lack of leadership. Photo courtesy of Texas Rangers

Michael Young doesn’t know what the future holds. He may go into coaching. He may go into personnel evaluation. He may go into broadcasting. But one thing’s clear: He’s enjoying retirement.

On the agenda this week? An impromptu trip to Napa Valley with the family.

“We just decided to do it spur of the moment,” Young said after a ceremony honoring his years with the Texas Rangers Saturday night at Globe Life Ballpark in Arlington. “I want to live my life like this for a while. I haven’t had a summer off since I was 10 years old.”

Young is deserving of his retirement, but it’s a shame he’s enjoying it so much. The Rangers sure could use him right now.

 Young is deserving of his retirement, but it’s a shame he’s enjoying it so much. The Rangers sure could use him right now.

Juxtaposed against the near-30 minute ceremony honoring Young before the game against Toronto is this Rangers team, a squad held together by the baseball equivalent of duct tape. Riddled by injuries, especially to its pitching staff, Texas has used the disabled list a Major League-high 16 times so far this season.

Martin Perez is the latest. The young pitcher now needs Tommy John surgery for an elbow injury. He’s done for the year.

Some of those injured players will return this season. But for now the Rangers resemble the cat you take to the vet, with those claws dug into the passenger seat hanging on for dear life. They’re one bad winning streak away from losing sight of the Oakland Athletics in the AL West.

Young sees it. He watches most of the games at his Dallas home. On Saturday night he got a close-up look at these Rangers, teetering on real trouble. He says he’s never seen anything like what this Rangers team is experiencing.

“It stinks,” Young said. “But that’s the way it goes. This is Major League baseball, and in this league stuff happens. No one feels sorry for you.”

One wonders if that’s the message in the Rangers clubhouse right now.

Young was many things to the Rangers during his 11 years in Texas. He grew into the team’s all-time hits leader, a seven-time all star and a five-time Rangers Player of the Year. The video montage during his ceremony highlighted his many achievements.

But the end of his ceremony was telling. Non-Rangers like Don Mattingly, Cliff Lee, Mike Napoli, Mike Modano and Derek Jeter all provided video messages for Young. The common thread? Class, humility and leadership.

Young wasn’t showy about it, but he led and you knew it. His teammates knew it. His play backed it up. He’s the only player in the majors in the last 100 years to play 400 career games at second base, shortstop and third. He was asked to change positions twice and be a super-utility infielder late in his career. Leaders accept change. 

Ian Kinsler groused about the leadership void left by Young’s trade to Philadelphia after the 2012 season. Never mind that Kinsler himself didn’t want to fill it. But trading Young wasn’t about his play, I contend. He hit .277 and drove in 65 runs in 2012.

Guess what he did in 2013? He hit .279 and drove in 43 runs. His trade was about economics, nothing more.

But imagine a Rangers clubhouse today with Young in a utility role, leading a team filled with young players. You’d feel a whole lot better about the near future of this Rangers team, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

Young’s final words during his ceremony rang truer when you compare the Rangers right now to the Rangers of just a few years ago. “Thanks for reminding me how good I had it here,” Young said. His night in Arlington was a reminder of just how good we all had it when Young was here.