Michael Young bats

Evan Grant’s defense of Michael Young: he’s a leader and is just like Paul Molitor

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Our banned friend Halladay’s Bicepts — we talk on Twitter, and if you miss him, give him a follow — alerted me to the fact that Michael Young’s staunchest defender in the press, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, was on WIP in Philly with my friend Angelo Cataldi this morning.  The purpose: to tell Phillies fans exactly what they can expect from their starting third baseman. The audio is embedded below. Or, if you prefer, you can listen to it at WIP.

I’ll give Grant this much credit: he was straight about the fact that Young’s range is toast and that, while Young may look good defensively out there because he handles the balls he can get to and has a decent arm, a lot of balls are going to get by him. Beyond that, however, here was Grant’s case for Young:

  • He’s a leader;
  • He’s motivated;
  • He’ll probably hit .300 again;
  • He’s a leader;
  • He’s a leader;
  • He wants to get 3,000 hits and make the Hall of Fame;
  • He’s a leader.

Really: listen to the interview. I think I actually understated the leadership stuff. According to Grant, Young is the Napoli Whisperer.

Grant went on to note that Michael Young has often been compared to Paul Molitor and that, like Molitor, Young was traded for the first time after his age-35 season. I have heard such comparisons. And there is a decent basis for them inasmuch as Young, like Molitor, played a lot of positions, hit .300 and slugged .444 through age 35.  Now, to be fair, Molitor got on base more, stole 412 bases to Young’s 89 and did all of that in a much worse offensive environment than Young’s, so Molitor was clearly the better player by the time he reached 35 than Young is, but I can see it as a rough comp if we’re talking about what they’ve done up to this point.

But the real issue: after the age of 35, Paul Molitor played six more seasons. And in those six seasons, he did this:  .313/.374/.457. And he hit 74 homers, drove in over 500 runs, stole 92 bases and averaged 138 games and 621 plate appearances a year.  It was damn nigh supernatural production for a guy Molitor’s age, even with the DH at his disposal. NO ONE does that. Indeed, a huge part of Molitor’s Hall of Fame bonafides are attributable to him transforming from an injury prone guy to a freaking machine who produced in his late 30s and early 40s like most All-Stars produce in their prime.

We can’t expect that of Michael Young. We can’t expect that of anybody. To throw out a Paul Molitor comparison in an interview about a guy’s future performance is pretty freakin’ out there. It’s this sort of thing that is why Grant is accused of being totally in he bag when it comes to Michael Young.

And the funny thing about it: this actually does Young a disservice. Because Grant’s comp to Molitor, without noting how unlikely that kind of thing is, is going to set Young up for criticism from certain quarters, even if Young is better than we expect him to be.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.