The time finally arrived late Friday afternoon when the media had no more questions for Michael Young, and all that was left before he could exit stage left into baseball retirement was to again wear his old Texas Rangers jersey.
The customary photo op followed, and Young and manager Ron Washington ended up posing side by side in a photo that also included general manager Jon Daniels, Young’s wife, and two of his three sons.
In a ceremony that was supposed to be all about Young, the player-manager bond was a prominent theme. That relationship between the franchise’s leader in just about everything and the franchise’s most successful manager rates as one of the keys to the Rangers’ recent run of success.
Their mutual admiration was on display at Rangers Ballpark.
“He was an ultimate teammate,” Washington said. “He came to the ballpark every single day and performed to the best of his ability within a team concept.
“The one thing we can control is our attitude, and his attitude every day was exemplary. Those are the type of people you like to have in your clubhouse.”
Young was quick to praise his former manager moments after Washington had praised him, calling the eighth-year manager “the best in the business” in large part because of the way he supports his players, sets a high level of expectation and revels in their successes.
But it wasn’t easy at first, when the trade of Mark Teixeira during Washington’s first season in 2007 left Young as the established star player on a team that had entered into a rebuilding mode.
As a rookie manager, Washington needed patience from within, and Young was the player who set a positive tone within the clubhouse and with the fans and media.
“Wash and I just always had a really fantastic, honest relationship,” said Young, a seven-time All-Star. “One thing I love about this organization was that everyone kind of felt this was a sleeping giant. We all wanted to see great things come to fruition together.”
They did in 2010, when the Rangers returned to the playoffs and went to the first World Series in franchise history. But Washington confessed during spring training to using an illegal drug a year earlier, and he needed a player to support him to get the team past the distraction.
Young, the face of the franchise and the club’s unofficial captain, was his guy.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Washington said. “There wasn’t any thought about it. I said what I needed to say to the team, and he stood up and put himself out there. It came from his heart, and I’ll never forget that.”
Said Young: “When you make a mistake in the public eye, people want that to be your defining moment, and it’s not. I knew what Wash was about.”
The Rangers went to the World Series again in 2011, losing in seven games to St. Louis. That memory stings Young the most, though he believes the lesser team was crowned champion.
“I mean no disrespect by it, but we were the better team,” Young said. “Flat out. I can say that now that I’m retired.”
Young, 37, retires with a career batting average of .300, 185 homers, 1,030 RBIs and zero days on the disabled list, and he went to the playoffs in each of his final four seasons.
He is the Rangers’ franchise leader in games (1,823), hits (2,230), at-bats (7,399), runs (1,085), doubles (415), triples (55), totals bases (3,286), multi-hit games (651) and infield hits (209). He led baseball for most of his career in respect from his peers.
Daniels left the door open for Young to join the Rangers as a special assistant or in another capacity. Young said he is looking forward to that conversation, but for now, “there’s no rush.”
His decision to retire, with an attractive offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers there for the taking, came down to spending time with his three sons, all under the age of 9.
“I’ve hit every possible emotion and back,” Young said. “It was a tough decision and an easy one. I’ve got three boys at home that are the driving reason why my playing days are done.”
But he leaves with the Rangers in a better place than when he arrived July 19, 2000, in a trade with Toronto and when Washington took over in 2007. They helped build a winner together.
“A champion. There’s no doubt about it: He’s a champion in every way,” Washington said. “I arrived here as a novice as a manager. There were things I was trying to accomplish, and there was pulling away from things. Michael never once wavered. He was patient. He was a true professional. I think that’s what it takes.”
Michael Young’s career statistics