a 2009 Texas Rangers: A look at Michael Young and the Texas Rangers
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THE MOVE REVISITED

Michael Young did not take the news well last winter when he was told by Rangers management that they were ready to roll the dice with the athletic Elvis Andrus at shortstop and wanted Young to move to third base. Young, now in his tenth season with Texas, is the most tenured player on the team, and has made the last five All-Star teams. In 2005, he won the A. L. batting championship, and just a year ago the Gold Glove. He didn’t originally take kindly to the request and demanded a trade, but he ultimately acquiesced and agreed to become a third baseman.

In spring training, it was said that he would need 100 games to get comfortable at the new position. The angles for both batted balls and throws are different. Counting spring training, he’s played about half that total, and he’s looking pretty comfortable at the hot corner. So far he’s made just two errors. He gets high marks from second baseman Ian Kinsler for the throws he makes to start double plays. He has such a strong arm that he can play deeper than most third basemen, mitigating the quickness of batted balls reaching him.

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Defensively, the move has helped the Rangers overall defense. Andrus makes too many errors, but he makes spectacular plays, and the Rangers feel consistency will come with experience. This season, Texas is currently eighth in the league in defense, having made just 17 errors in the first 28 games, a pace of 98 for the year. That’s a vast improvement on the league leading 132 and 124 error totals the team racked up the past two seasons.

 

Offensively, corner infielders are usually looked to for power. Young had just 12 home runs last season and has hit more than 20 in a season just twice, with 24 being his career high. He seems to have taken the power aspects of the position change to heart though, as he hit seven round trippers in the team’s first 25 games. That’s clearly the fewest games he’s needed in any season to reach seven. In one remarkable week recently, he batted three times in the ninth inning, and hit a home run in all three. Each either tied the game or put the Rangers into the lead. When the Rangers rolled into Chicago for a three-game series this weekend, Young was hitting .336 and has an 11-game hitting streak, the 17 th hitting streak of his career of 10 games or more.

In retrospect, Young’s success is highly improbable. He came to the Rangers from Toronto in a trade for Esteban Loaiza during the 2000 season. In order to send the veteran starter to the Jays, Texas wanted a strong pitching prospect in return and got Darwin Cubillan. Young, who was thought to be a light-hitting, solid fielding middle infield prospect, came too. He took over as the Rangers’ second baseman on Memorial Day in Baltimore the following season, and later moved to shortstop when Alex Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees. General Manager John Hart once told local media that Young couldn’t hit enough to play regularly. Young has made that prediction laughable, but he was fortunate to have manager Jerry Narron on his side in his early Ranger days. No matter what Hart said, Narron continued to write Young’s name into the Ranger lineup.



 

 

Young is one of the most popular Rangers with local fans. He has endeared himself in part by becoming enmeshed in the community. He makes his permanent home now in the Dallas suburb of University Park near the SMU campus. He’s active year round in local charitable organizations, such as Wipe Out Kids Cancer.

 

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The Rangers moved into first place earlier this week on the heels of nine wins in twelve games. The West was thought to be Angels’ domain, but Los Angeles has stumbled badly out of the gate to open up the division. Texas with decent starting pitching, improved defense, and always explosive offense looks poised to challenge if the Angels don’t get back on track. If the Rangers do stay a factor in the West this year, the move of Young to third base will be a key element in the turnaround.

By: Richard W. Humphrey
MLBcenter.com Texas Rangers Correspondent


> View all of the 2009 MLB team previews from Pro Baseball Fans

 

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