Michael Young = Derek Jeter

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In the wake of my Michael Young post from yesterday, I was drawn into a little Twitter skirmish with Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, who called the post “boneheaded,” and said I didn’t understand or appreciate Michael Young.

What Evan missed, I think, was that I wasn’t criticizing Young as much as I was being critical of the coverage he receives that seems to sweep all of his flaws and foibles under the rug as if they never happened.  Despite our conversation, Evan didn’t quite come around to my way of thinking. But then again Evan recently made the argument that Young should be the American League MVP this year, so I think it’s safe to say that he himself is one of many who get stars in their eyes when the topic of Michael Young comes up.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before, haven’t we? Indeed, it’s very much like the Derek Jeter dynamic. The dynamic in which it’s not enough to say that he’s a fine player, he has to be considered the best, and let no one give voice to the notion that his game has declined or has a flaw or three. In which his missteps, to the extent he has them, are invariably cast as strengths or, at the very least, explained away by his passion and leadership.

Jeff Bradley of the Star-Ledger makes the comparison today. I don’t think he’s being critical like I am when he makes it, but in some ways that makes it all the more telling:

In many ways, Young is the Jeter of Texas. So many similarities when it comes to demeanor and, as Young has said, the approach to the game they share. Play to win. Do what is asked. Don’t make excuses.

However, because we are provincial, because we live and work in the New York market, and focus so hard on “our” players, we probably never thought of Michael Young as a player who should be mentioned in the same sentence as Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain.

What follows is the same fairly non-critical assessment of Young’s history of moving positions in Texas. Bradley misses one earlier instance of Young pouting at a position move (when he had to move off short for Andrus) and there isn’t much scrutiny of how a man can still be considered a great team leader when he twice bristled publicly because he was not getting his own personal way and playing the position he wanted to play despite there being better options available to the team.

source:  But that’s how the Michael Young narrative has evolved, has it not?   Like Jeter, he puts people in the strange situation of having to say a great player is overrated because it’s not enough for most people to assess him for what he actually is. Instead he is cast as Lord of the Intangibles and, like Jeter, that story of his intangibles won’t accept the unpleasant truth that, at times, he has behaved in ways we don’t normally associate with leadership.  Not that he’s a bad seed or a bad player or anything close to that. He isn’t. It’s just that he’s not as perfect as his local press makes him out to be because, hell, no one is that perfect.

Like with most players, there is an ego, however understandable and limited, at work there that has led both Jeter and Young into a couple of unfortunate stances. Yet they catch little if any hell for it and woe be to the person who tries to point it out.  These players are teflon and they have a small security force of fans — including some journalists — who defend them as if they were bound by an oath to do so.

I suppose observing all of this means that I am a boneheaded hater.  If so, I suppose I’ll just accept that and hope that one day Michael Young will find it in His heart to offer me absolution.

That’s how it works, right?

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”