Michael Young officially announced his retirement yesterday, with a form press event scheduled for later today. Young will retire as a member of the Texas Rangers – the uniform he wore for 13 of his 14 Major League seasons.
Young retires with a big pile of cash to land on and stellar career upon which to reflect. He has the love and respect of Rangers fans to his dying day. The rest of baseball? Well, that’s something of a mixed bag.
Michael Young is something of a pendulum player. It feels like he swings back and forth between overrated and underrated in equal extremes. Part of the challenge in perceiving Michael Young fairly is the cult of personality built up around him over the years.
Young is regarded as a model citizen and the ultimate team player, a title that isn’t really up for debate at this time. Writers loved him and his home fans did, too. The team viewed him as valuable enough to keep him around even as his time as a shortstop ended.
He hit for a high average in a superheated offensive environment. Reflection and context takes some of the shine off his career numbers (102 OPS+ through age 31, his final year as a shortstop.) He won Gold Gloves despite a less than stellar defensive reputation and he won credit for being an offensive force when so much of his production looks a little hollow when viewed through the filter of the era.
But Michael Young was incredibly durable over his long career, playing 13 years on the infield without a single DL stint. He racked up 200 hit seasons and finishes with a .300/.346/.441 career line, good for a 104 OPS+.
As stated earlier this week, there is nothing wrong with average. Michael Young played valuable defensive positions for more than a decade. That he was paid as a superstar and lauded as a saint when neither was true should not diminish the significance of his career.
Rangers fans will remember him more fondly and some misguided writers will fire Hall of Fame votes his way but the reality of Michael Young is less divisive than the myth. He played at a high level for a long time. There’s incredible value in that and he retires with his head high (I assume.)
Important Read of the Day
As we all know, offense is on the decline around baseball. Run scoring is down and strikeouts are up. Credit a “cleaner” game or the rise of relief pitching or whatever, fewer runs are scored now than a decade previous.
One factor that is easy to miss but important to acknowledge? The ever-growing strike zone. The Hardball Times produces a report on the strike zone stretching both lower and wider over the pitch fx era.
The cascading effect of a bigger strike zone is important to note. Once players are aware of the lower strike, they expand their own zones, swinging at tougher and tougher pitches to hit. More outs, more strikeouts, fewer runs, less fun.
Check out their findings. Certainly something to keep an eye on.