SURPRISE, Ariz. – In what should be the time of their lives, or at minimum the time after the time of their lives, the Texas Rangers spent a cold, rainy and painfully uncomfortable Saturday afternoon explaining that it is, you know, almost time for baseball again.
How this all came to be is, for the moment, between club president Nolan Ryan, his general manager, Jon Daniels, and their most dignified and productive player of the past decade, Michael Young(notes).
And after a couple hours at Rangers camp, where Young arrived at noon hauling baseball gear and a still-warm request to be traded, the situation had not changed, meaning Young remains angry with Daniels. Ryan and Daniels seem unable to grasp what Young is angry about, and manager Ron Washington is in the middle, unable and unwilling to choose between his employer and the first player to back him when his own career was in distress a year ago.
Oh, it’s a mess with Texas, all right.
Moments after strolling into the clubhouse wearing shorts and falling into a man hug with Washington, Young admitted he had expected to be traded by now, yet promised that as long as he was a Ranger, he would be, “Making the best of a situation that is less than ideal.”
Not an hour later, Daniels said it is “My expectation” Young would be in the Rangers’ lineup come opening day.
“Mine, too,” Ryan said.
Young would only say that he would spend the coming weeks preparing for the baseball season, wherever that may lead, and leaving the impression he’d still rather it be someplace else.
Yet, Daniels said, “As of today, I don’t predict with any sense of certainty anything will happen.”
They’ve only barely finished sweeping the confetti from their first trip to a World Series. In the throes of honeymoon, however, the Rangers are contemplating divorce. Young believes the club has been disloyal. The club hopes to reconcile. What binds them still is the Rangers’ conviction that they are better with Young, that and the $48 million they still owe him over three years. So they co-exist for better or worse, or at least until some desperate team loses its third baseman to injury. Until then, it is the Rangers who appear desperate, the worst possible climate to make a trade.
There are no simple answers. The Rangers technically owe Young nothing more than a clean uniform and a paycheck that doesn’t bounce. Young owes the Rangers only an honest effort, which is the only effort he knows. That he and the general manager will no longer share a beer and a laugh is of little consequence to who the Rangers will be in 2011, an observation that is intended as a compliment to Young, who has made a distinguished career of playing for his teammates first.
Young will not gripe, I don’t think. He certainly will not lie down.
As Washington said, “Michael isn’t the type of person to bring any drama into the clubhouse.”
That does not mean he will forget, a fact that would only live in his heart. Daniels’ conscience seems clear.
“I look at it,” Daniels said, “as some level of closure today.”
For Daniels, maybe. Young expressed again that his off-season desire to leave the Rangers came not as a result of losing third base to free agent signee Adrian Beltre(notes), but because of other issues, the content of which he never has specified, but clearly relate to Daniels.
Sources close to Young say Daniels was dishonest with Young, that direct assurances the club was not trying to trade Young didn’t match the team’s actual intentions. And while unwilling to speak specifically to that, Young complained 11 days ago about being “misled” and “manipulated,” and since then has lauded Ryan for being “truthful” and “honest.”
That, of course, leaves Daniels, the 33-year-old general manager who a couple months ago was lauded for his brilliant construction of a World Series team. And just in case Young didn’t think Daniels was getting his message, Daniels said Saturday, “To some degree my integrity was called into question, and I don’t take that lightly.”
Daniels shrugged and said he’d, “Wear it,” because, “I think that’s in the best interest of the organization.”
Not delighted with the prospect of becoming a semi-regular designated hitter (and semi-regular utility infielder) at age 34, Young nevertheless consented when the club signed Beltre early last month. Several weeks later, Ryan and Daniels explained Young’s discontent by saying he’d changed his mind about the limited role. Young insisted that was inaccurate, and in spite of as many as two recent conversations with Ryan about his feelings, Ryan reiterated on Saturday that Young’s dissatisfaction with the club was rooted in his new role.
“I agreed to do it,” Young said. “Then, [according to the Rangers], two weeks before the season I magically changed my mind. That wasn’t the case. … I was not going to let that slide.
“I know what really went on here. And there’s not a thing I would change.”
With that, Young returned to the clubhouse, found a new pair of batting gloves, and headed for the cage. There is a season to look forward to. Reluctantly, he could spend it with the Rangers.
To think, the time they could have had.
- Jon Daniels