Tough year, but Young keeps faith in himself

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Baseball is the most fun, says Michael Young, when things are going well for him.

The cynics out there would say he's been having fun all season, and there is no shortage of cynics this season about the play of the Texas Rangers' all-time hits leader.

The numbers, some of the worst of Young's career, support those who seem to delight in his struggles.

He's headed toward his worst numbers since 2002, figures that don't fit in the middle of the lineup. And nothing riles up the anti-Young crowd more than his second-to-last Wins Above Replacement player ranking.

Alas, Young seems to have gotten hot, at least for a week and much of the past month. He went 10 for 20 during the Rangers' last homestand and extended his hitting streak to seven games Tuesday in the first of three games at Anaheim.

Young is always moving forward, confident in himself and certain that better things are ahead with 15 regular-season games and a possible trip to the postseason remaining.

"I'm a firm believer that when you go through it and come out of it, you're better for it," Young said. "That's one thing I've kept telling myself this season. There were some times I didn't feel as locked in as I'd like. I knew I'd come out of it, and I knew I'd be better off for it."

Young's numbers this season don't fit with the rest he has accumulated during his 13 years with the Rangers. He entered Tuesday with a .274 average, seven homers, 23 doubles and 62 RBIs.

Those would be his worst over a full season since 2002, when he batted .262 with nine homers and 62 RBIs in what was his first full season in the majors.

He's flourished in the years since, winning a batting title in 2005, but hitting seven points higher (a career-high .338) last season as he collected his 2,000th career hit and was named the Rangers' Player of the Year for the fifth time.

But it's a new year with new challenges. The seven-time All-Star insists that he has enjoyed the first extended chess match of his career.

"Don't get me wrong: I'm not going to hit .120 every year and say I'm having a blast," Young said. "But I also know after such a long time in this game the realities of it. There are times when it becomes increasingly difficult just because of the difficulty of the game at this level. That's the part of it I enjoy."

To that end, Rangers manager Ron Washington hasn't seen Young slam his helmet or throw his bat in the bat rack upon returning to the dugout after an out.

He has muttered a few choice words at times, which is par for the course for any hitter when he misses a pitch he should have handled. Overall, Young has kept his cool when others might not have.

"I can't remember any time this year where Michael Young slammed his helmet, unless he went way deep in the tunnel and did it," Washington said. "Through all of that adversity, he still believes. And he just doesn't use the word believes. He feels it through all his bones and his body."

The stretch last week over six games at home was an extension of a stretch in which he has hit for more power and driven in more runs. He hasn't changed a thing in his swing or his approach.

Washington said that the law of averages has come into play, and that it's tough to keep a good hitter down.

Young just keeps going forward, and is still having fun despite a difficult season.

"I want to keep working hard," he said. "Anytime 7:05 rolls around, I always believe in myself. I don't think that ever goes away."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST