MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Young will feel at home with Phillies

Justice: Young will feel at home with Phillies

Young will feel at home with Phillies
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is going to love Michael Young -- and so will Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, etc. Young will fit nicely on a team that prides itself on playing the game right, on playing hard and on competing like crazy.

If that sounds like basic stuff, it is. At least it is for the good teams. And some teams do it better than others. When the Phils were winning five straight National League East championships from 2007-11, they played with toughness and an edge.

Young plays that way, too. There are legitimate questions about how good he still is, about his power and defense and all the rest. But Young did hit .277 and have 27 doubles in 2012 in his worst season in a decade. In terms of presence and being a good teammate, the Phillies simply couldn't have found anyone better.

Young's legacy with the Rangers should not be underestimated. First, he's one of the most decent people you'll never meet. It's almost impossible to imagine anyone disliking Young.

He led Texas out of the Alex Rodriguez years -- back to a clubhouse environment that was about 25 guys instead of one. Young helped lead them back to winning, too, as Rangers general manager Jon Daniels began accumulating talent and doing his job better than almost anyone.

Along the way, Young became the face of the franchise and its most popular player. He was one of baseball's best players for about seven years. Between 2004-10, Young averaged 18 home runs and 50 walks a season, while compiling an .819 OPS. He leaves the Rangers as a seven-time All-Star who twice finished in the Top 10 of American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting.

Young's numbers can't be measured just in his play on the field. He was the leader of the Rangers, their spokesman and the guy who set a tone. When Yu Darvish joined the Rangers last offseason, some of us wondered how comfortable he'd be, given the cultural leap from Japan to Texas.

"He'll be fine," Young said. "Believe me, if you can't get along with the guys in here, you're the one with the problem."

Young was a large reason for that environment. Third baseman Adrian Beltre probably took on more of a leadership mantle last season as Young's play declined. But the Rangers probably don't win back-to-back AL championships in 2010 and '11 without Young's contributions, both measured and otherwise.

Daniels had toyed with trading him twice before. Young had a tough time swallowing those discussions, and also the moves from second base to third to first. He always did what the Rangers believed was best for the team, but he didn't always agree. Young twice asked to be traded, but rescinded both demands and apologized to teammates for being a distraction.

When fans would criticize his defense, Young would say, "Well, I would have liked to have spent my entire career at one position, but those aren't my decisions."

Because Young was the face of the franchise, because his power declined dramatically the last two seasons -- from 21 home runs in 2010 to 11 and eight the past two years -- Young became the No. 1 target of criticism from fans on talk radio and blogs in Dallas-Fort Worth.

It's always odd to see fans turn on some of the guys who've performed the best and attempted to do everything correctly. But Young never lashed out. If he was angry -- and he surely was -- he never showed it.

Young has agreed to be traded to the Phils, as Daniels is attempting a dramatic reshaping of the Rangers. Part of that reshaping is moving second baseman Ian Kinsler to first and inserting highly-regarded rookie Jurickson Profar at second.

Meanwhile, the Phillies have an opening at third base. It's a no-risk move, since the Rangers are paying most of Young's salary. Knowing how prideful Young is, there won't be many more motivated players next season.

He'll love Philadelphia because the ballpark will be filled and the clubhouse has a bunch of guys -- Howard, Rollins, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley -- who are accustomed to winning and know how to win.

That's what Young has always been about, too. He had a terrific 13-year run with the Rangers. Regardless of what Young does in this next chapter of his career, he'll always be a Texas Ranger, one of its most popular and productive players ever. Here's to another great season or two or three from one of the really good guys.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.