By EVAN GRANT / The Dallas Morning News
Published 29 January 2011 07:13 PM
Here’s the thing about perfection: To appreciate it, you must step back, breathe deeply and contemplate it.
This is what the Rangers and Michael Young must do to preserve what might be the most complete roster the Rangers have ever assembled.
Through hard work, aggressive bidding and some opportunistic maneuvering, the Rangers have a roster built to withstand injury, ineffectiveness and fatigue. In other words, all the calamities that can befall a team over a season.
If Josh Hamilton cracks a rib or Nelson Cruz strains a hamstring, they are covered. They can pinch hit for the catcher — probably the weakest spot in the lineup — with regularity without fear of exposing themselves. They have insurance in case Mitch Moreland struggles like their last two rookie first basemen. They have an ability give Ian Kinsler some preventative time off to keep him healthier and Elvis Andrus some time to keep him fresher.
The Rangers are more suited to play NL-rules baseball, which is always nice to have going for you if you have World Series’ aspirations.
The only move that would throw off this roster’s balance now is to make more moves.
That means the Rangers must back away from any more talks about trading Michael Young. And Young, who has kept a low profile since announcing he’d move to DH to accommodate Adrian Beltre’s signing, must do what makes him so valuable to this team: be its heartbeat and its voice.
For some reason, in the wake of the greatest season in Rangers history, there seems to be something of a disconnect between the organization and its icon.
The club tried at one point to trade him, struggled to persuade him to move off third and has been unimpressed by his public reluctance to embrace the new role. Young agreed to make the move but has said little about looking forward to it. That’s understandable. No player with an ounce of self-respect or pride is going to love being a DH. Young’s approach, it seems, has been to talk about preparing like he’s always been prepared. He seems to be focusing on the super-utility portion of the role. That’s admirable, because his glove could very possibly be needed.
What the real issue here is unclear.
Is there a faction in the Rangers’ organization worried about Young’s impending tenure that would allow him to veto any trade? Sure.
Is there a faction concerned that at $16 million, Young is too expensive to be a super-utility/DH ? Probably, but the Rangers have the luxury of carrying that kind of player since so much of the team’s salaries are cost-effective.
Is there concern that Young might be declining because he had a poor second half? Possibly, but that would be short-sighted. Management consistently touts track records when evaluating players. Young’s track record as a hitter is as strong as anybody ’s on the roster.
Is there a segment worried an unhappy Young would become a distraction? That’s almost too silly to consider for a team that traded for and re-signed Vicente Padilla , signed Milton Bradley and flirted withManny Ramirez . Young is a professional. End of story.
There is no telling if Young will get the 700 plate appearances he’s averaged since 2004. Just as there is no telling if recentl y acquired Mike Napoli will get close to the 453 at-bats he got last year. Or how David Murphy is going to find playing time.
It’s all led to more hand-wringing about whether there will be playing time for everybody, and that’s led to speculation about another trade.
Here’s the thing: There will be playing time. How, I don’t know. But there will. There is no better example than Murphy last year. He was a left-handed hitter stuck behind a left-handed hitter. And all he did was end up with more than 450 plate appearances.
If everybody stays healthy this year — and that’s a big if — Young might end up with only 600-650 regular-season plate appearances. On the other hand, if everybody stays healthy, the Rangers are probably headed to the playoffs for another year and Young’s plate appearance total will probably rise to close to 700 or above. It can be a win-win situation.
Young had a total of 787 plate appearances last year, including the po stseason. It was the ninth -highest total in MLB history. Each of the players who had more were at least three years younger at the time than Young, now 34, was last season. Young hit .250 on five singles and one walk in the World Series . He’s capable of much better.
By setting up the roster the way they have, the Rangers have given Young — and every player on the roster — the absolute best opportunity to excel. If he excels, this team excels. And if the team excels, everybody is happy regardless of the number of plate appearances.
It’s time to sit back and let this roster do what it is capable of.