For veteran Young, winning never gets old
Despite career year, Rangers mainstay focused on title chase
ARLINGTON -- It would be premature, Michael Young says, to deem his 2011 performance the best of his 11-year career.
Ask again in a month, and perhaps the Rangers veteran may be able to agree with what everyone around him has already decided. For now, his numbers -- he tallied his sixth career 200-hit season for a career-best .338 average with 106 RBIs -- are of no matter. There's still work to be done, after all.
"Everything boils down to winning and losing for me," said Young, who also reached the 2,000-hit plateau this season. "I mean, this is a team game. It's been a satisfying season in the sense my teammates are incredible. I love playing with this group of guys. We had a successful regular season. So in that sense it has been very satisfying."
Oh, but it would be all the more sweeter should his Rangers club, in its second straight postseason appearance, capitalize on that very opportunity and utilize the resiliency showcased no better by Young to bring home its first World Series championship.
It's Young, the team's longest-tenured player, who personifies everything about the gritty Rangers. Never do they panic, never do they make too much of highs or too little of lows, and never does their focus wane.
"Mike is a pro," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "And he's been taught well. And he shows up every day to do his job. But more than that, he shows up every day to win. And when you got that type of attitude around, it's certainly something that other players pick up. He's been huge for this organization for many years."
The organization nearly let him walk away before season's start. In fact, the divorce appeared inevitable for weeks, when Young requested a trade in February after feeling what he described as "manipulated and misled" in a process that involved Texas' front office bringing in Adrian Beltre to take over Young's third-base position.
The Rangers, though, maintained that such a deal would have to be in the best interests of the ballclub. And as the story's been told time and again, they were never able to create one, leaving Young as the club's everyday designated hitter.
Young made 69 starts at DH during the regular season. Surely his presence there paid dividends, but his versatility proved of greater significance for a Rangers club that watched him appear in 39 starts at third base, 36 at first base, 14 at second -- a scenario that perhaps helped Ian Kinsler endure his first injury-free season -- and even one at shortstop.
"What he had to go through this year just shows the type of character that he has," Washington said. "And, believe me, the type of character that he has, it's the type of character that's inside that clubhouse, and that's what he brings."
"I am a big Michael Young man," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He is a consummate professional. My God, he plays so many different positions well. But at the same time, how about the level of his offense? He gets big hits. He hits better pitchers. You don't want to make a mistake on him. He is so consistent. Every team would love to have one of those. And for as many years as he has been able to do it here in Texas is really remarkable."
Maddon, who characterized Young as "a different cat," then knows that the 1-0 deficit with which Texas carried into Saturday's Game 2 of its American League Division Series against Tampa Bay wasn't so much of a concern for the Rangers at the moment. Not with Young in the center of that clubhouse. The 34-year-old, who was slated to start at DH on Saturday after playing first base in Friday's 9-0 loss, doesnít just create camaraderie and chemistry.
"Michael Young is the chemistry," Washington said. "And, you know, those guys are all for one and one for all. The past couple of years we come together as a group. I don't think we play for our individual stats. I think we play to try to get back to the World Series and win. Once you've gotten there and gotten the taste of what that's like, that's the only goal. And Michael Young epitomizes that."
Young is the only player in history to play 35-plus games at three positions in a season in which he had at least 200 hits. But he shows no wear and tear from the demands placed upon him this year. Rather, his energy is prevalent, leaking into essentially every corner of Texas' clubhouse.
"From an individual standpoint, I don't put too much stock into a stat sheet or anything like that," he said. "It doesn't really matter to me. I care about winning, being a good teammate and going out and playing hard. Those are the things that make me proud as a player."