Say the name Michael Young to a Rangers fan and you will have a reaction that will likely include a sigh and a frantic search for today’s lineup scared that they will see him at shortstop or second base at the expense of Jurickson Profar or at designated hitter instead of Craig Gentry or Mike Olt.
Fans have reached their boiling point with Young, and by extension Ron Washington‘s use of him. They say Young has been a great player and concede he may be a great leader. But using him every day makes this team worse, they say. At least it does on paper.
The Young (and Washington) supporters turn to the team’s record. Leave it the way it is, they say. They are in first place and have had one of the best records in the American League all year.
In truth, the right approach is probably right in the middle. Young shouldn’t be an every day player and if the team wants to give Elvis Andrus or Ian Kinsler a break, Profar should be the guy taking the field. But at the same time, Olt hasn’t proven he can be a regular quite yet and so maybe having Young in there and keeping Olt for specific situations is the way to go.
But then, something funny happened. Young started to hit for power. Prior to September, Young has only hit a maximum of two homeruns in one month. He already has three this month. In fact, despite hitting only .222 with a .216 OBP this month, it has been his second best month of the season in terms of contributing to the team’s offense. A sign of his bad luck (a homer-led .172 BABIP this month) and how bad his season has been.
Washington has faith in Young, a faith that Profar and Olt have yet to attain (and the youngsters supporters quickly point out you can’t gain faith if you don’t play). The faith might just be being paid off at the best possible time. Or, Young may be fighting off the young to save what is left of his career as a Major League regular.
It’s easy to point to continuity in September of a season where the team’s lead in the division is down to under four games. Come next March, it will be a lot harder to say that Young is still an every day player. At that point, the young may finally have their real shot. And the restless will finally get calm.