>Obligations

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By The Common Man

Dammit, people, stop writing things The Common Man needs to respond to today. TCM is looking straight at you, Austin Swafford, mega-Astros fan, proprieter of Austin’s Astros 290 Blog on the SweetSpot Network and holder of the proverbial keys to the SweetSpot blog today:

“Are the Rangers the only ones who were surprised by this? Were even the Rangers surprised? [Michael] Young has become the face of the Rangers and has been a model citizen, but you can only push a guy so far, and it’s been going on with him for years. Granted, he’s been paid well for what he’s done with the Rangers. But it’s nice to feel like the team is behind you, respects you and views you as an important piece of their success. Young’s contributions for a decade have certainly warranted Texas’ respect.”

How have the Rangers disrespected “the face of the franchise?” Well, Austin takes Young at his word that he’s been “misled and manipulated on different occasions.” And as evidence of this, Austin points out that the Rangers have “taken advantage of his versatility and willingness” and asked/cajoled him to switch positions. This after making him the face of the franchise in the first place. And after making him one of the highest paid players in Major League Baseball. Both of which are excellent ways to show a ballplayer respect.

And why did the Rangers do Young so dirty as to ask him to play a different place on the diamond and accept this $16 million per season as compensation for his trouble? Here’s the dirty secret: It’s because the Rangers wanted to win baseball games. Every single time they asked Michael Young to switch positions, they did so because they thought it would help improve their team. Help them win more baseball games. Help them get closer to the postseason and to the World Series. Which has at least some passing relationship with how profitable a team is and how happy its fans (and it’s players) are.

And there is absolutely no doubt that Adrian Beltre manning the hot corner makes the Rangers a better team than if Michael Young were playing there in 2011. Beltre is a better hitter, and is a better fielder by several orders of magnitude. So what to do with Young? Well, if he wants to play regularly, he can switch positions or move on to another team. Because that’s what the Rangers need to do to make their team better.

In 1991, the Minnesota Twins won the World Series, in part because of the pitching of Jack Morris, who was a St. Paul native. Jack had a great year and was incredibly popular with the fans. After that season, he left for Toronto. Unfortunately, the Twins learned the wrong lesson. Instead of realizing that they needed to continue to find really good players to fill out their roster, the Twins decided to bring in faces. Icons. Local boys. Players the fans would like and relate to. They brought back Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, and Terry Steinbach. The problem was that these players simply were not as good as they had been in their prime. They were incapable of fulfilling the club’s needs on the field. And attendance dwindled. To its nadir at just over 1 million fans in 2000. Twins fans didn’t want to watch their former neighbors. They wanted to see a winning team. And because the Twins didn’t understand that fans have more of an attachment to a team and its success than to the players themselves, they lost sight of their goal. They lost money, and they almost got contracted by the league.

Meanwhile, the Twins had an amazingly popular centerfielder, Kirby Puckett. Like Young, Puckett was the face of the Minnesota Twins. Its heart and soul. He was regarded as the team’s leader on offense and on defense, and won 6 Gold Gloves while patrolling centerfield. But on July 15, 1993, when he was 33 years old and one of the highest paid player in Major League Baseball, Kirby Puckett moved to right field. Because it made the team better.

If Young wants to continue playing at his old position, he can’t do it on the Rangers. He makes the team worse than Adrian Beltre does. And a team has no greater obligation than the one to its fans to win baseball games. Because if it fails in those obligations, it will be forced to tear itself down to rebuild. And Michael Young won’t survive that process either.

Meanwhile, Young has his own obligations. He owes the team his best effort on the field. He owes it his willingness to move and do what the club feels is in its best interest. Because that’s the responsibility he accepted when he signed that lucrative deal. That he would be the employee of the Texas Rangers. And that he would do everything in their power to help them win. Even if that means changing positions. Even if that means changing teams.

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