Michael Young may not see his name etched in stone in the baseball Hall of Fame, but his legacy will always be remembered fondly by fans of the Texas Rangers.
Appearing at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday, Young officially retired from baseball after a stellar career spent mostly with the Rangers.
For 12-plus seasons, Young was the heart and soul of the Rangers and was an integral part of a team that finally broke through and won back-to-back American League pennants in 2010 and 2011.
Breaking through as a rookie in 2001, Young started his career at second base. Young would play alongside shortstop Alex Rodriguez for three seasons before moving over and taking over at short when Rodriguez was traded to the New York Yankees. He excelled at short as well, winning a Gold Glove Award in 2008. When young Elvis Andrus was ready for the majors, Young again moved, this time taking over at third base for the start of the 2009 season.
Two years later, after the Rangers signed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, Young became the full-time designated hitter, although he would fill in at all four infield positions throughout the 2011 season. Through all of the changes, Young never complained, accepting his new roles and diving into each one of them enthusiastically.
Young became a free agent at the end of the 2012 season and signed a one-year contract to play third base for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers midseason, getting back to the postseason once again. But it was clear that Young’s skills were regressing—he hit just .279 with eight home runs and 46 RBI on the season and had become mostly a singles hitter.
But during his time in Texas, Young became the franchise leader in several major categories, including hits (2,230), games played (1,823), doubles (415), runs scored (1,085) and triples (55). He was selected to the American League All-Star team seven times and won the AL batting championship with a .331 average in 2005.
Through it all, Young was a leader both on and off the field. Ron Washington, who managed Young for six seasons, recalled how Young’s presence and demeanor was admired and respected by all of his teammates.
"He was an ultimate teammate," Washington said. "What that means is that he's a person that came to the ballpark every single day and performed to the best of his ability within a team concept. That's exactly what Michael was about.
"His attitude every single day was exemplary. Simply the way Michael went about his business and the professionalism he showed took them [his teammates] to a level they didn't think they had."
It took Young 10 years before he reached the postseason, and while he was unable to win a World Series title, he walks away having no regrets, although he still believes the 2011 Rangers were the best team in baseball that season.
I know there are no rings, but that was a championship team," Young said. "They were a great team, but we were better. Flat out. I can say that now that I'm retired.
"I'm over it, but I'm not over it."
Young was also known for his durability, never once appearing on the disabled list and averaging 155 games played each season. And he was almost always playing second fiddle, first behind Rodriguez, then Mark Teixeira, and finally playing in the shadows of Josh Hamilton.
But no one was respected more than Young, and that’s the legacy that he will leave behind.