When Nelson Cruz was hit by a Louis Coleman fastball on Monday, something very good could have happened. It really has very little to do with Cruz or Coleman and everything to do with Michael Young. Young followed up the Cruz plunking with a two-run homer and drove Coleman from the game. Many people, including every member of the Texas Rangers felt that Coleman had hit Cruz intentionally and Young took matters into his own hands. He stepped up to the plate with a purpose and wasted no time getting the Rangers a couple of insurance runs. It was not something that has been seen from Young on a regular basis this season, but it was a very welcome sight.
Young has struggled throughout the season and while Ron Washington has stood by him the entire time, fans and the media have not been as soft hearted. Young was already a player that had his defensive work heavily criticized before this year ever began, but now that his power numbers have completely disappeared, people have had even more room for their frustration to grow.
I have without a doubt been one of those critics and will continue to be, but if the first week of September is any indication, Washington may ultimately be able to prove his point. His stance has been simple and has not changed for months now. In his opinion, Young's track record indicates he will eventually come out of this slump and he is going to pencil his name in the lineup every single day until it happens. He is dedicated to Young and he is going to give him every single opportunity to provide production in the middle of the Rangers' lineup. He will consistently give the rest of the Rangers' infield a day off, but will do so much less with Young.
If fans want things to change, it is not going to happen this year. We are a week into September and Washington will take these same mentalities into the postseason.
While I personally cannot justify Young spending any time at shortstop with Jurickson Profar around or time at third with Mike Olt here, Washington feels differently and Young's production is slightly up this month. He now has hits and RBIs in every game during September except for September 1st. His average and OBP are similar to where they have been all season long, but he is slugging .621 so far in September. He also has seven RBIs a week into September, with his previous high this year coming in April when he drove in 13 runs. On Friday night against the Rays he hit his third home run of the week, which is another great sign considering he has not hit more than two in an entire month this season.
A week is an extremely small sample size and I am not convinced that this small increase in production will remain, but if Washington has been right and Young is about to fully break out of his slump, it could not have come at a better time. Adrian Beltre is absolutely on fire and Josh Hamilton is back to quietly producing like the player he is. If the Rangers can just get a little production out of Young, the offense is going to be in much better shape for October.
Not one bit of me can justify expecting young players like Olt and now Profar to produce with extremely limited at bats, but Washington is not going to change the way he fills out the lineup card. At a time when I would be looking at young players and seeing if they can contribute, he is completely devoted to his veteran players and no player more so than Young. He will sink or swim with Young this year, but next year could be a completely different situation.
Expectations for Young should be very small next season and it would seem that even Washington would not contribute the loyalty that he has this season, but that is next year. In a very strange way, 2012 is the year of Michael Young. He is Washington's guy and if he can truly turn things around for September and October, he can make Washington look like a genius and the first five months of the season will be forgotten.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
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