Regardless of how this situation with Michael Young turns out, the reality is that this has turned into one more embarrassing black eye with a franchise that seems to specialize in these sorts of things.
This is a p.r. nightmare for the Rangers. The guy they have been pumping as the "Face of the Franchise" has publicly said he wants out, is willing to waive his no-trade clause to no longer be here, because he doesn't want to play third base.
And the Rangers, quite honestly, would probably be willing to deal him, if a team would take on his contract. But as has been pointed out by many folks, he's a declining average to somewhat above average player who is being paid like a star. He's a guy who wants to play shortstop, but who doesn't have the defensive chops to play the position much longer. The market for these guys is limited.
So, we've got the Face of the Franchise who wants to be gone, and an organization that would probably be fine with going another direction were it not for the fact that they'd have to eat some of the contract to make that happen.
And this starts looking like ARod Redux, where the team's All-Star shortstop has gotten into a snit and both parties want to get out of the marriage, but it can't be done without the team taking a financial hickey. Five years after ARod forced his way out of town, to catcalls and raspberries, while Tom Hicks paid a huge amount to facilitate a deal, it appears that we're getting deja vu all over again.
And even if that's the worst case scenario...what, exactly, is the best case scenario here? Either Young backs down, but there's still the issue of underlying tension and unhappiness between the organization and the clubhouse Alpha Male over the fact that he has to move to third base, with the problems that will inherently cause when Elvis Andrus gets promoted.
Or Young doesn't back down, a team is willing to give the Rangers a grade B prospect and take on Young's whole contract, and an organization that has generated little excitement among its fan base and has done almost nothing in terms of outside moves to get better this offseason has to sell the fans on the idea that moving its marquee player for next to nothing, and slashing payroll to a Floridian level, is a positive.
Now...taking a step back, looking at this from an unemotional, purely left-brain standpoint, is dumping Young and his contract good for the Rangers, long-term? Particularly if he's going to refuse to switch positions?
But from the softer standpoint, in terms of p.r., in terms of fan goodwill, in terms of the impact on the players in the locker room and selling the team to free agents that you are trying to get to come here for less than what they think is fair, is this a good thing?
No. It is a disaster. Try selling Ben Sheets on the notion that he should come and try to rehabilitate his marketability in Texas after you've just given away one of the most respected players in the game after an ugly public breakup.
And from Young's standpoint, I have to think that part of the frustration is that he doesn't understand why now, all of the sudden, after everything that's gone on historically with this franchise, he's the one they draw the line in the sand with.
I'm sure he remembers when he first was coming up, and had to move from shortstop to second base because of the Alex Rodriguez signing. He remembers when Mark Teixeira came up, and had to DH because Rafael Palmeiro was here and wanted to be the first baseman. He remembers how the Rangers wooed Carlos Delgado, promising that if he'd sign with Texas, the organization would make Teixeira go back to DHing again. He remembers how Alfonso Soriano threw a fit over moving to shortstop, and how he defused the Soriano situation by volunteering instead. And how the organization went ahead and simply traded Soriano two years later, rather than force the situation by making him change positions. And how the organization seemingly decided that, since Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't like playing first base, they weren't going to make him play first base anymore, but would just let him catch.
I'm sure he looks at this past season, and sees Milton Bradley, who played when he felt like it, didn't play when he didn't feel physically up to it, but refused to go on the d.l. and forced the team to play short-handed, sees a guy who was here only one season that the manager catered to. I'm sure he looks at Vicente Padilla, and sees a guy who couldn't be counted on to go take the mound every fifth day, whose neck was hurting or who had a twinge or who otherwise couldn't be counted on, but who again was catered to and not put on the d.l.
I'm sure he sees this organization as historically, during the time he's been here, bending over backwards to cater to and coddle players, particularly (but not always) veterans. And I'm sure he's now wondering why it is that, all of the sudden, they decide to take a hard-line position with him, the guy who has sacrificed and done all the right things and played hurt and played hard and done everything the team wanted.
And I think he saw how the organization caved and moved Alex Rodriguez when he caused a fuss, and caved and moved Mark Teixeira when he made it clear he didn't want to be here, and figured, it worked for them...no reason why it shouldn't work for me.
This is just one more chapter in the embarrassing history of this organization. And as I said at the beginning, there's no way for this to be resolved without besmirching everyone involved. The organization looks bad. Michael Young looks bad.
And really, management looks even more incompetent for handing out that huge contract extension before the 2007 season. It was widely criticized for being too much for a guy who simply wasn't that good, but was justified from a p.r./marketing/soft factor standpoint. But if you are going to give out a huge contract because you don't want to take the p.r. hit that would result from letting the guy go, if you are going to make him the Face of the Franchise and the center of what you are trying to do...
You can't do that and then, less than two years later, before the contract has even kicked in, decide you made a huge mistake and try to dump him on whomever will take him, even if it means picking up a good chunk of his contract. That is, quite simply, utter incompetence, and it makes you wonder what happened, what the thought process was, that went from thinking 5 years, $80 million being a good idea in early 2007, to thinking it is a totally unpalatable, unmitigated disaster that is going to require subsidizing to get off the books less than two years later, the baseball equivalent of mortgage backed securities.
I hope everyone involved in this thing is embarrassed. Because really, watching all this unfold, and really thinking about it, it makes it embarrassing to be a Ranger fan.
But then, that's a feeling I guess we are all used to by now.