Two distinct takes on the Michael Young situation

28 Comments

First we have Evan Grant’s take in the Dallas Morning News.*  Grant writes — in a very, very long open letter — that both Young and the Rangers are at fault, both sides have acted somewhat poorly, though understandably so and that each side must swallow its pride and carry on for the greater good of the Texas Rangers:

As I type this, it’s not too late to rescue this, I think. Everybody must accept some blame. The Rangers for the poor manner in which they’ve communicated with a player from whom they have asked so much. Young must accept blame for being overly-sensitive on the matter and lashing back publicly at the organization.

They must sit down, explain their positions, yell at one another and ultimately each accept some blame. That’s what happens in successful marriages, all of which face tests and challenges along the way. This has been the most successful marriage in Rangers history. It would be a shame if it broke up over poor communication.

Then, in contrast, we have Mike Hindman at Baseball Time in Arlington who is NOT having it. For a second.  After saying that Young “has lost his f*****g mind” and that he’s a “nut job,” Hindman writes:

Now that the chickens have come home to roost and some of us wonder how Michael Young became such a narcissistic jackass, we can look back at that moment and see that the Rangers encouraged Young’s delusions by treating a pretty good player as if he were a superstar for no good reason.  This seems to have taught Young that he was entitled to things because he was “Michael Young, Face of the Franchise” rather than for what he actually did on the field.

The local megia — who already liked this very clean-cut, hard-working, immensely likable young man a whole lot — immediately seized on this theme and wildly over-mythologized Young’s “sacrifice.”  It was easy for the beats and columnists to fall in love with Young after having to deal with jackwagons like Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira.  Young, by comparison, was humble and accountable and accessible.  And so the folks in the press box created a narrative of Young bordering on beatification (Patron Saint of Sports Sacrifice), and then they kept doing it, and doing it and doing it some more.

Boom.  And then Hindman goes on to note that two Hall of Famers and one future Hall of Famer — George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski and Ichiro — moved positions and changed roles without anything approaching this kind of sturm and drang, and that that ought to tell us something.

I can’t say that I’ve followed Young’s career terribly closely, but I gotta tell ya: Hindman’s assessment of all of this seems a lot more plausible than Grant’s.  Mostly because Grant leaves the media’s role out of it, and given how much of this has played out in the media — dating back to Young’s initial move off second base — that is a pretty key oversight.

People start to believe their own press clippings, and I’m sure Michael Young is not immune to that.  And like Hindman, I tend to agree that he’s overplaying the victim card a bit too much here.

*Hurm. The post disappeared after I first read it. What is now linked is the cached version.  Did the Morning News take it down?  I dunno.  But let me know if the cached version disappears too.

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.