Cliff Lee only made 20 starts for the Texas Rangers between regular season and postseason games, but that's not stopping him from speaking out about Michael Young's final years in Texas.
Saying he's "baffled" by the way the Rangers treated his once-again teammate, Lee questioned the decision-making of the Texas front office.
"I think that baffled a lot of people who were around that organization. Like I said, he was the heart and soul of that team for a long time, and I can't understand their thinking on a few of the moves they made with him … He's a really good player. I don't know why you wouldn't just let him do his thing.
"I don't know their thinking or their motives behind those things … You don't really have to understand it. They've got their reasons. They've got their theories on their team. And they have the right to do whatever they want, really, as an organization. But in my opinion, you want guys like Michael Young around. And you want him to be happy. And you want to let him go out there and just do what he does.
"He never brings any problems to the scenario at all. So I didn't personally understand it. But I didn't know what was going on behind the scenes."
Of course, there are probably some people in Dallas-Fort Worth that would argue the "never brings any problems" point. You know, there was that small matter of demanding a trade in February two years ago when the Rangers moved him off third base in favor of Adrian Beltre and traded for Mike Napoli to split time at DH. It's something Young is refuting now:
"The biggest misconception about it is that people thought I did it because I didn't want to DH," Young said. "I flat out agreed to do it. That had nothing to do with that.
Of course, that's a little different than what he was saying two years ago:
"I’ll be the first to admit that I was not particularly keen on the idea of being a DH. But I did agree to do it. I wanted to put the team first. But in light of events that happened in the process, I got pushed into a corner one too many times. I couldn't take it anymore."
The "events that happened" were likely the decisions to bring in Napoli and give him significant time at DH, cutting into Young's playing time — a perfectly defensible decision based on performance. Young was entering his age 34 season and coming off a .284/.330/.444 season, his third sub-.800 OPS in four seasons despite playing in one of the game's best offensive parks.
That was also Young's second trade demand in three seasons, as he raised a stink before the 2009 season when he was moved off shortstop to third base to make room for Elvis Andrus. While Lee may want "guys like Michael Young around," if he's going to be a problem every time you ask him to do something, it seems pretty obvious why the front office wouldn't.
Essentially, this comes down to an aging player being unable to accept that he's no longer good enough to warrant playing time on his old club, and an old teammate and friend seeing him as the player he used to be, not the one he is now. Beltre, Andrus and Ian Kinsler were all better offensive and defensive options than Young across the infield, and Young never hit well enough to warrant the time at first base and DH that he got.
Texas GM Jon Daniels has an obligation to make sure his team is set up for long-term success. Sometimes, that means cutting loose the "heart and soul" of the team once he starts hurting the team with his poor performance. And as Lee does (fairly) point out later on, you can't argue with the success the Rangers had on the field while reducing Young's role.