Rangers fortunate to have selfless Young
Veteran willing to give up position to remain in Texas, help team
The Adrian Beltre signing will work for the Texas Rangers, not only because of Beltre's significant talent, but because Michael Young's attitude will allow it to work.
The Rangers signed Beltre to a six-year, $96 million contract. He is a superb defensive third baseman, and at 31, he is coming off the second-best offensive season of his career.
But the arrival of Beltre means that Young, the unofficial captain of this team and its clubhouse focal point for years, will be displaced at third. This is a player of real stature with the Rangers and throughout baseball. This is a team that just won its first American League pennant. With another player who had this much standing in the game, this could be a problem. With Michael Young, it won't be a problem.
Young has agreed to become the Rangers' primary designated hitter and "super utility" infielder. He expects to get playing time at all four infield positions, including first base, where he has never previously played.
The willingness to put the needs of the team first is not a new development for Young. He came up as a second baseman, was moved to short, and more recently, moved to third to make way for Elvis Andrus.
For Young, the desire to remain with the Rangers is a larger factor than the desire to have things his own way.
"This is where I want to play," he said Wednesday in a teleconference. "I'm willing to make a pretty big sacrifice to do that."
Young's willingness to give up third base for the good of the team also made a strong initial impression on Beltre.
"I have huge respect for him," Beltre said. "He's one of the good guys in the game. It means a lot to play some place where they put team first."
Manager Ron Washington indicated that Beltre would be his cleanup hitter, replacing the Rangers' 2010 DH, Vladimir Guerrero, in that role. With Beltre on board and Young now available at DH, Guerrero is no longer in the Rangers' plans.
Young, 34, sounded like a man who would prefer to get his at-bats while playing a position.
"If I have to get the majority of my at-bats at designated hitter, then that's the way it has to be," Young said. "I'm a baseball player. I'll move around a lot, but I expect to be productive no matter where I will play.
"I still believe that I can be a productive defensive player. I'm not closing the door on my willingness or my confidence to be a good defensive player at any position."
And so, after a decade with the Rangers, after six AL All-Star selections, after building a reputation as one of baseball's most solid citizens, Young could spend a significant portion of the 2011 season, as he put it, "bouncing from position to position."
"He'll be my designated hitter and move around the infield on days when I want to give people a day off," Washington said. "We will give him a chance to play first base. Whenever we get a chance to get Michael Young in the lineup, we will."
No matter what position is involved, the Rangers remain fortunate to have Young. It is not just an issue of the repeated, demonstrated, consistent abilities and production. It is the intangible factor, in which Young remains willing to do whatever is necessary for the good of the team.
He does this for the best of reasons -- he wants to remain a member of the Texas Rangers. He wants to play his entire career with one team, and he will do whatever is in the best interests of the team.
In the context of contemporary sports, you look at this attitude and you are almost moved to say: "How quaint." But you don't say that. You look at Young putting his team above himself, and you say: "That is exactly the way it is supposed to be."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.