Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A big star is coming off a down year. Management brings in someone to take his place, and the big star freaks out about it. Talks to the media about how unhappy he is. Demands a trade. When the trade doesn’t happen, he makes a point to snub his general manager when camp starts. That guy is no good, right? We tend to pile on guys like that, don’t we?
Not if it’s Michael Young we don’t.
Over at FoxSportsSouthwest Jen Floyd Engel has a feature on Young who has apparently been forgiven for his behavior last spring. And not just forgiven: he’s considered “a consummate professional” and that discord is now a part of his legend as King Intangibles. A man who, according to Engel anyway, should be seriously considered for the AL MVP. Go for the analysis, stay for the gratuitous swipes at “Moneyballers” who just don’t understand Michael Young because he can’t be placed on a spread sheet.
The shots at the stat-set are amusing at this point. The early-season strife stuff, however, genuinely confuses me. I can’t recall any player getting such a free pass on it like Young has. And he was getting it even before he put up his nice season, so it’s not like this is solely a case of good play absolving sins. People were talking about Young as a “consummate professional” back in the first part of the season, mere weeks after he acted in ways that, however understandable, are not what is typically called professional.
Don’t get me wrong: Young is a fine player. He had a nice bounceback season. It’s good that he turned his lemons into lemonade and didn’t let it affect his play. But I have to ask: when was the last time a guy demanded a trade because he stood to lose playing time to a superior player and was so quickly and easily forgiven for it?
Marc Carig of The Athletic reports that the Mets have interviewed Dave Littlefield to fill the club’s GM vacancy. The position hasn’t exactly been a popular one for potential candidates, with many preemptively taking their name out of consideration.
Littlefield, 58, was the Pirates’ GM between 2001-07. It didn’t exactly go well. The club never won more than 75 games during his tenure. Littlefield was also infamous for the 2003 Rule 5 draft in which he carelessly left several valuable players unprotected, including Chris Shelton and José Bautista. Littlefield was also criticized for trades he made (e.g. Aramis Ramírez) and for trades he didn’t make (e.g. Kris Benson for Ryan Howard).
In the time since, Littlefield worked as a scout for the Cubs, then for the Tigers. Since 2015, he has worked as the vice president of player development for the Tigers. Littlefield’s successor, Neal Huntington, went on to have more success which didn’t help Littlefield’s cause any. Huntington was also comparatively much more open to analytics.
The Mets’ interest in Littlefield isn’t surprising. There are plenty of up-and-coming GM candidates — like Ben Cherington — the Mets could target, but Fred Wilpon (pictured above) want that. They want someone malleable who will adhere to payroll constrictions. Mets ownership’s involvement is an issue for the younger, analytics-oriented executives, Matt Ehalt of The Record reported earlier this month. Ehalt wrote, “There are rumblings that several candidates with progressive, analytics-oriented approaches do not believe they will be able to operate as they please should they take the Mets job, according to a source. That hesitation played a factor in why former Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington bowed out of the mix, per the source.”
You have to feel bad for Mets fans, who seem relegated to having to root for a middling ballclub once again. And you have to feel bad for the likes of Brandon Nimmo, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, who will once again have to perform for a team that doesn’t have competing as its chief priority.