Michael Young is the absolute king of overrated players. That does not mean he’s bad. In fact he’s been quite good over the course of his career. But he has been considered far better than he really is — has been lauded for his game-changing intangibles, leadership and MVP-worthiness despite there being scant evidence of any of those things — since almost the first day of his major league career.
So of course when Sports Illustrated polled 228 major league players about who the most underrated of their ranks is, they chose Michael Young. I’d laugh if I wasn’t on the verge of tears.
What is the source of Young’s svengali-like power? I can get how people close to him — journalists, other players — can like the guy a whole hell of a lot, but why does it render them unable to view him objectively? Other players apart from maybe Derek Jeter don’t have this problem. Journalists and players who surround them see their strengths and weaknesses and assess them more or less fairly. But not Young. Woe be unto the person who dares suggest that Young is not one of the best players in the game and one of the best leaders to ever wear a uniform. If you say that Young is merely very good and has, at times, not been an ideal leader, you’re a hater.
The response will clearly be that I don’t get it. But really, I’m begging someone, anyone, to tell me what it is I don’t understand. What does Michael Young actually provide that causes a guy who gets MVP votes and kudos in total disproportion to his measurable accomplishments to be underrated? If it’s just leadership, why is he considered a leader when other players who have acted in exactly the same way he has (i.e. having little tantrums when asked to move off a position for a better player) considered selfish?
I honestly do not understand. And I apparently never will.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.