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.

Braves sweep Mets, take 2-game lead in East with 3 remaining

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ATLANTA — Matt Olson knew the Atlanta Braves were too talented to stay in a season-long slump.

That’s why no one panicked when the New York Mets’ division lead swelled to double digits in May. Now the Braves are on the cusp of another NL East title.

“It’s a clubhouse full of guys who want to win,” Olson said. “That’s all it’s been since the moment I walked in. That’s No. 1 on the program.”

Dansby Swanson and Olson homered for the third straight game, Travis d'Arnaud hit a go-ahead two-run single in the third inning, and Braves beat New York 5-3 on Sunday night, completing a three-game sweep of their NL East rival and taking a two-game lead in the division with three games to play.

The defending World Series champion Braves have been chasing the Mets the entire season. In the final series of the season, any combination of one Atlanta win or one Mets loss would give the Braves their fifth straight division title.

New York plays its final three games of the season against worst-in-the-majors Washington. Atlanta closes out the regular season with a three-game set in Miami. Should the season end Wednesday in a tie, Atlanta would win the division after claiming the season series 10-9 with Sunday’s victory.

“We’ve felt this confidence since the beginning of the year,” d’Arnaud said. “It just didn’t go our way early in the year, but pulling on the same rope, having each others’ backs, not trying to do too much. We’re just trying to play the game of baseball and have fun with it.”

The Braves won five of the last six games in the series, outscoring the Mets 42-19 over that stretch. New York had a 10 1/2-game lead on June 1 but now is the lower in the standings than at any point this season.

It was a lost weekend for New York, which came to Atlanta hoping to clinch its first division title since 2015. Instead, aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer lost Friday and Saturday before Chris Bassitt lasted just 2 2/3 innings on Sunday.

“We still have three games left in the regular season, we’re still going to the postseason, that doesn’t change, but there’s a lot of learning points that we can take from this series moving forward,” Mets slugger Pete Alonso said. “I thought we played well, but the Braves played better. They played excellent baseball this entire weekend.”

Swanson took Bassitt deep to right-center in the first with his 25th homer, and Atlanta took charge with a three-run third. Bassitt (15-9) issued a bases-loaded walk to Olson before d’Arnaud delivered a single up the middle to score Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley for a 4-3 lead. That chased Bassitt, who was charged with four runs, three hits and three walks.

Olson connected for his 33rd homer to make it 5-3 leading off the sixth, his 410-foot shot landing in the seats in right-center. Olson, in his first year with Atlanta, surpassed 100 RBIs for the second straight season.

“Everyone knew we were underperforming when we were flirting around that .500 range,” Olson said. “It was one of those things where it was trusting the talent we have and the guys in the clubhouse. Everybody was solid, head down, do your work, it’ll turn around and you wind up winning.”

Charlie Morton stranded runners on first and second in the first, but he gave up Daniel Vogelbach‘s 18th homer that tied it at 1 in the second. The righty struck out Francisco Lindor with runners on first and second to end the threat.

Jeff McNeil went deep off Morton in the third and Vogelbach followed with an RBI single to put the Mets up 3-1. Morton entered the game having allowed 28 homers, sixth-most in the NL.

Morton scuffled throughout his start, giving up three runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings as the 38-year-old made his first start since signing a $20 million, one-year contract to remain with Atlanta next season.

Dylan Lee (5-1) relieved Morton and pitched 1 1/3 innings, leaving after a walk to Brandon Nimmo with two outs in the sixth. Collin McHugh entered and struck out Francisco Lindor.

Raisel Iglesias faced four batters in the seventh, A.J. Minter faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen converted his third save of the series with a clean ninth.

Jansen leads the NL with 40 saves in 47 chances.

The Braves’ bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA last month, pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings the last two nights.

BIG NUMBERS

Atlanta leads the NL with 241 homers. And the Braves have their first 100-victory season since 2003.

TWO, DARN HOT

McNeil went 3 for 5 and has multiple hits in five straight games. His average is .326, one point behind the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman for the NL batting title. In 23 career games at Truist Park, McNeil is hitting .395 with 12 runs, nine doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and four walks. … Jansen tied Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for eighth place on the career list with 389. He’s also is the 10th closer to have four different seasons with at least 40 saves.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. … Braves 2B Ozzie Albies (broken right pinky finger) is still wearing a cast. … Braves RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique.

ATTENDANCE

The Braves drew 42,713 in their regular season finale, the club’s 42nd sellout of the season. Overall. that’s 3,129,931 for the season – and the most tickets sold since 2000. In 2019, the team’s last full season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta drew 2,655,100.

UP NEXT

Mets: RHP Carlos Carrasco (15-7, 3.95 ERA) will face Nationals RHP Cory Abbott (0-4, 5.11).

Braves: RHP Bryce Elder (2-3, 2.76 ERA) will face Marlins LHP Jesus Luzardo (3-7, 3.53).