Mac Engel

The case against analytics is Michael Young

Michael Young hasn’t been out of uniform long, but he’s enjoying his time with his family to consider becoming the Rangers’ next manager.
Michael Young hasn’t been out of uniform long, but he’s enjoying his time with his family to consider becoming the Rangers’ next manager.

Alex Rodriguez was signed to be the face of the franchise for the Texas Rangers. Unbeknownst to all of us that guy was already a member of the team.

Then Rangers owner Tom Hicks signed A-Rod to be the face of the Rangers in 2001, but it was Michael Young who turned out to be just that.

Ironically, it was Young who was befriended by A-Rod when the pair were teammates in 2001.

“Michael was one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had. A competitor at heart but also a superb leader and the kind of person you want your children to look up to as a role model,” Alex Rodriguez said of Young in an email. “He was a defining part of my time in Texas and I join all his fans in saluting his career on and off the field.”

By any metric, A-Rod was a superior player to Michael Young, but it is the latter who created a more meaningful baseball career. Young will have his jersey retired on Saturday, Aug. 31 in a ceremony at The Ballpark in Arlington.

As much as owners and general managers force the issue, the face and heart of a sports franchise happen organically, and with copious amounts of luck.

Young’s legacy with the Texas Rangers is secure, and now the hole both he and Adrian Beltre left this franchise is visible from Jupiter, and cannot be filled by numbers.

If ever there was a case against analytics, it is what Young and Beltre brought to the Texas Rangers beyond statistical averages and quantifiable measurables.

Moneyball’s flaw is that there are some contributions, and people, whose value far exceed any statistical measurement.

This is the first year since 2000 that neither Young nor Beltre have played for the Rangers, and their absence is glaring — not necessarily in the lineup, but in the clubhouse.

There is no one on this team who others look to, and up to, who says, “This is what we’re doing, and you’re doing it, too.”

Elvis Andrus is the closest candidate, but he’s just not quite there. His voice is too quiet, and his bat is not big enough.

When Young entered the big leagues in 2001, he had A-Rod to watch. Young was surrounded by the good, and bad, of a baseball clubhouse. He also had something in him that made him a great, model pro.

By the time the Rangers began moving up, around 2004, Young slowly started to take control of the clubhouse.

It is not a coincidence that when the Rangers started to win big and reached consecutive World Series, Young had that team in line with his words and actions. They were good guys, and they were not going to post any threat to the precedence he set.

The best teams typically have a player — or two — who produces, is one of the highest paid players on the team and whose actions and words are followed.

The surprising part is that Beltre, a free agent from the Scott Boras camp, came in and effectively maintained the paradigm that Young set. Free agents typically don’t do that right away, and seldom do Boras guys do it.

Boras clients typically are good pros who put up numbers, but are clock in/clock out employees.

Much like Young, Beltre was a revered player in the clubhouse, and players followed him.

The Rangers don’t have that person.

By retiring Michael Young’s number, we are again reminded of all that he did for the Texas Rangers, and that some people can’t be replaced by statistics.

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Mac Engel is an award-winning columnist who has extensive experience covering Fort Worth-Dallas area sports for 20 years. He has covered high schools, colleges, all four major sports teams as well as Olympic games and the world of entertainment, too. He combines dry wit with first-person reporting to complement a head of hair that is almost unfair.
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