Today, Michael Young of the Texas Rangers reached 200 hits for the sixth time in his career. Arbitrary milestone numbers like 200 hits don’t matter as much to sabremetricians since the question often asked next is “What did he do with those 200 hits and what else did he do besides that?” In this case however, 200 hits does represent something of significance because, before the season, there was doubt about whether he would still be a starter for the Rangers.
Back in March, the Rangers had signed Adrian Beltre to play third base instead of Michael Young. Michael Young, originally a shortstop, had moved to second base as a rookie in 2001 because the Rangers had acquired Alex Rodriguez. Once Alex Rodriguez was traded in 2003 to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano, he was moved back to shortstop. Then, when Elvis Andrus was promoted to the big leagues in 2009, Young was moved to third base. He apparently was thrilled to make any of the position changes in the past. Yet in March, the Rangers were asking him to move for a fourth time to become the team’s primary designated hitter while also getting some time in at first base. Michael Young wasn’t happy. He was also signed to a large contract but was wielding little more than a contact bat with erratic power and a questionable glove. Now he was being asked to stay off the field and act as a “super-utility player” which suggested he would no longer be a full-time starter. So, he demanded a trade.
Apparently, one of his young fans, Gavin Justice-Farmer, wasn’t happy either.
It is unclear if, as wikipedia suggests that Michael Young saw Gavin’s video and after meeting the fan became convinced to stay with the Rangers. Nonetheless, he stayed. Even Gavin should be pleased with the results.
Young has posted one of his best seasons while splitting time platooning at first base with Mitch Moreland, third base for an injured Adrian Beltre and designated hitter. Nor has his performance been the function of an empty batting average with slash stats of .332/.375/.473 and a .849 OPS. His .826 OPS over 297 at bats as a DH also would rank him as an above average AL DH behind leader David Ortiz at .973. His sOPS+ at the positions he saw significant time at, 1B, 3B and DH, indicate he outperformed the league average at those positions. Young also just tonight set a career high in RBI with 104, mostly a function of spending half the year batting cleanup. More importantly, his flexibility has helped buttress a Rangers lineup ransacked by injuries not only to the previously acquired and mentioned Adrian Beltre, but to Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. While doing so, Michael Young’s flexibility enabled him to start 151 games and accumulate 200 hits. Whether Young gets that many opportunities to start (or hit) next year or remains as productive with the bat is anyone’s guess but at this point at least he will be another year as a Ranger. I think Michael Young and Gavin Justice-Farmer can both be happy with that.
Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the star in your first half hour on the field, then you are the star. Griffey would tell ya, If you play for a living, it’s like any other job. You don’t gamble, you grind it out. Your goal is to win one award a career. That’s it. Get your reputation in when you have the best of it, protect it from the media when you don’t then live out your life as a coach. Don’t give anything away. That’s how I got my way through the Seattle Mariners, a true grinder. See, I learned how to win an award or two a time. But finally I’ve learned this, if you’re too careful, your whole life can become a grind.
This is Buddy MLB’s place. You won’t find it in the yellow pages.
“Another All-Star, Alex?”
“Nope, Buddy not tonight. Give me a triple crown.”
“Three stakes of high society. Count it… So you’re upsetting the Big Apple? Good. Want a Cracker Jack box?”
He doesn’t look like much, but Buddy MLB is connected all the way to the top of baseball. He’s the one guy in the game you don’t want to mess with. But if you’re looking to be a star, this is the only place in town. They all know me as a small market player, but that’s about to change.
Jose Canseco is a baseball legend. He’s been in the record books, earning his living off that reputation since he was 18 years old.
“What are you, holding that reputation for somebody?”
“Yeah, Jose, I’m holding it for you.”
“You should be, because I hope you’re not thinking about putting all that glimmer in play.” He’s as close to a friend as there is in this place. But tonight, I don’t want to see him.
“Come here. You don’t want to butt sound-bytes with these guys. Coz they’ll chew you up and blackball you.”
“So you say, Jose.”
“There’s plenty of easy ways, Alex. We get outta here, get some All-Stars, run over to Costas on NBC.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“You’re making a run at it aren’t you? Rolling up the stakes and going to the record books. Am I right, Alex? Right?”
“I can beat the game.”
“Maybe, maybe this is a game that can be beat, but you know you can put in your ten at Yankee Stadium and let Jeter win the World Series MVP in the House that Ruth Built…Ok, I understand. I understand. Back to battle.”
The game in question is No-Limit Cooperstown Hold’em. minimum buy-in five year career. A game like this doesn’t come together often on the West Coast. The stakes attract free agents, and they in turn attract the media.
No limit Cooperstown Hold’em is the Vin Scully of baseball. Each player is dealt two cards of retired baseball numbers face down. Five cards are then dealt face up across the middle. These are community cards everyone can use to make their best five card hand for the media. The key to the game is looking like a star, not the cards.
There’s no other game in which reputations can change so much from hand to hand. A brilliant player can get a strong image cracked from a sound byte, get an asterisk on their numbers and lose their voters along with every single shred of rep in front of him. This is why voting for the Hall of Fame is determined by the media. Some players, pros even, won’t play for Cooperstown. they can’t handle the swings. But there are others, like Willie Mays, who consider Cooperstown the only pure award left.
Like Papa used to say, life is on the wire, the rest is just waiting for the cards to be dealt.
“I’m going to raise, I’ll bet an MVP.”
“It’s a position raise, I call it.”
The flop comes Reggie Jackson (44) and Joe DiMaggio (5) of Yankees, Bill Terry (3) of Giants.
Here’s the beauty of this game, I just got two pair with McCovey (44) and Brett (5), forty-fours and fives on the flop and I want to keep him in the hand.
“Go Ah-Rod”, Buddy belches out.
Against your average guy, I’d set a bunt trap, hardly bet my rep at all, but Buddy MLB is too smart for that. So what I’ve got to do is Zimmer the pot, rush it and look like I’m trying to buy it. Then he plays back at me and I get paid off.
“I bet 700 home runs.”
Buddy brings a cracker jack to his ear, listening to it. Then, he drops it on his tongue and slurps it into his mouth. Crunch. “Call.”
My guess is Buddy’s on a Yankee draw.
“Burn and turn,” Buddy orders.
There’s my money card, Carl Berger (5) of Marlins. I got a full house.
Buddy says, “Checking the better.”
“Check’s good,” Now i hope a Yankee falls and Buddy flushes his Yankees, then he’ll bet strong and I’ll beat him with my forty-fours full of fives.
The river comes, Billy Martin (1) of Yankees.
Bud leans forward, “I bet. Your $252 million contract didn’t change a last place team.”
“Time.” I want him to think I’m pondering a call, but all I’m thinking of is Cooperstown and renaming the Hall of Fame to A Rodriguez World.
“Alright Buddy, I see your $252 mil but I’ll be a team player by moving to third base. Um. Yeah I’m going to go all-in because I don’t think you need the Yankees.”
“You’re right, I don’t need the Yankees.”
I know before the cards are even turned over…
Buddy flips up Aaron (44) of Braves, Aaron (44) of Brewers for a better full house.
“Aaron’s clean, Alex.”
“I’m down to the tabloids, Jose. I lost my rep. I lost my fans…”
“Happens to everyone Alex, from time to time, everyone goes bust. You’ll be back on 60 Minutes and writing a book about it before you know it.”
“Nah I’m done.”
“Here, let me stake you. 50% of a pay-per-view boxing match. You lose more rep, blame me.”
“I’d just throw those fans away, Jose. You still got the number for Peter Gammons?”