It’s Not Personal Sonny, It’s Strictly Business

To wit:

I can’t possibly see the conflict being between Young and team president and co-owner Nolan Ryan, due to the fact that Ryan is an old-school baseball guy. And old-school baseball people want players who show up ready to play the game the right way every day. Young does those things at a very high level.

The signing of free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre is a direct slap to the face of Young, who was the everyday third baseman on a team that reached the World Series last year. And it is not the first time the Rangers have asked Young to switch positions. Young began his career with the Rangers as a second baseman and moved to shortstop when the Rangers traded Alex Rodriquez to the Yankees for second baseman Alfonso Soriano.

Then the Rangers had a hotshot rookie shortstop, Elvis Andrus, they wanted to bring up, so they asked Young to move to third base, which he did for the good of the team. After two years at third base, the Rangers go out and sign Beltre, who is widely considered one of the best third basemen in the game.

This is a great example of how the Face of the Franchise/Ultimate Team Player arguments always break down. Williams concedes that Beltre is “considered” one of the best third baseman in the game, but thinks that signing him was a “slap in the face” from the Rangers to Young because Young has been asked to change positions for the good of the team in the past. Um, so what? Shouldn’t the Ultimate Team Player type be just fine with doing whatever is best for the team, kind of by definition? And what Williams doesn’t point out is that, even though each of these moves made the Rangers better, Young complained about each one of them. There’s an inherent contradiction here, one that almost always surfaces here sooner or later. Michael Young is a team player first and foremost who would do anything for the good of the team, so you shouldn’t ask him to do something he’d rather not do even if it makes the team better.

My problem with the reverence Face of the Franchise players garner from the fans and the media is that, almost inevitably, people start arguing that those players have to be placated at the expense of the team. They don’t argue that explicitly of course, but that’s what they’re saying when you actually consider them for a second.Allowing Jeter to bat leadoff no matter if he’s not hitting well or giving him a much larger contract than you have to doesn’t help the Yankees any, so I’d much prefer they not do it, no matter how much I like and appreciate Jeter (or any other player you want to hypothetically put in that situation).

Frankly, any other outlook just seems like an odd way to root for a team to me.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

23 thoughts on “It’s Not Personal Sonny, It’s Strictly Business

  1. I couldn't agree with this column more. I'm actually very excited you wrote it, because it's an argument that I've made over a beer many a time. Only to be totally derided by fellow Yankee fans. I love Derek Jeter with all my heart, and while I can't always take the same approach you describe (not falling for certain players incredibly hard) I have no problem criticizing these very players when things concerning them appear, to me, to affect the team negatively (whether potentially, or actually).

    So anyway, thanks for putting this up!

    PS: totally off subject, but does anyone know how a way to interpret how fluctuations in individual wOBA change individual WAR?

  2. Pete Rose changed positions several times for the good of the team. The man was not only the face of the franchise, he was King of Cincinnati – hometown boy makes good. Nobody ever claimed the Reds slapped him in the face.

  3. I feel that you miss the forest through the trees in several areas, including;
    1) Old #2 never asked to be moved up to leadoff, after he led the league in GIDP's but still hit well in the .300's, Joe moved him to leadoff while the near-Rook (BG) was questionable by most if he could hang as the LF; let alone as a leadoff guy.
    2) The NYY business model has made way more on Jeter than Jeter has earned as a player. Forget the jerseys and stats but there are very few people that fans show up to see & Jeter is one of those. He has earned his paycheck.
    3) I'm tired of non-Yankee fans bashing the team due to what they spend on players. Does Yahoo whine that Google pays above market and includes free coffee and snacks? The NYY have to pay more for everything and they should as its tax rates, living expenses, media demand, and business revenue far exceeds the norm.

  4. Brien, I agree with you. I'm a Yankee fan not a fan of individual players. I root for the team to do well and want the players needed to make that happen. I don't think you are cold, but honest.

  5. ITA agree with this column. I also snickered as soon as I saw that Mitch Williams column. The ol' player who shows up to play the game the right way every day! Ugh, what a baseball cliche. Williams probably also writes about players with a lot of heart…..

  6. Good post, Brien – good thing Jason was out of town ;)

    I guess I'm in the minority – I DON'T watch the Yankees just for the pleasure of seeing DJ. I want to see the team playing like a big, well-oiled machine, playing the way everyone else WISHED their team could play.

    If DJ is there – sure, that's fine. But if they are a better team without him, I'm happy to see him PH once a game; they're still the Yankees. (correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't there a few other fine players who USED to be on the Yankees, but aren't on the field getting 20 mil a year now?)

  7. This "face of the franchise" business is complicated — there are a lot of factors involved and not all of them are easily measured with advanced statistics. I think of what happened in L.A. when the Dodgers made Manny the "face of the franchise". When Manny fell on his face, the entire team seemed to go flat. Sure, there were other factors at play (McCourt divorce, for example).

    In every organization I've been a part of, I sensed that the people within the organization brought intangible qualities to the organization that were helpful or harmful. Consider the people you worked with who were good leaders, or that you found inspirational, or whose values seemed to reflect the values of the organization.

    Think back those many weeks ago when Cliff Lee made his decision to join the Phillies. Why did he do that? Because he felt happy and comfortable in that clubhouse? If so, then the guys on the Phillies who contribute to the overall atmosphere there deserve some credit for the extra wins that Lee will produce over there. Contrast what seems to be a negative atmosphere and culture over in Flushing Queens. Even if it's all about the WAR, I don't have the feeling that the Mets bring out the best in their players. Could the team use a different "face of the franchise" guy?

    We may want to discount the intangibles that a player brings to a ballclub, but we're more willing to consider intangibles when it comes to a manager. Joe Torre was given endless credit over the years for his ability to calm the waters, handle the media without controversy and manage difficult player personalities. Assume for the moment that he was actually able to do some of these things. Were any of these things worth wins and losses? If so, then isn't it possible that some of the qualities we attributed to Joe Torre might also be possessed by one or two players on the Yankees?

    I don't know if Michael Young brings any of these qualities to the Rangers. I can't even be sure if Derek Jeter brings any of these qualities to the Yankees. It may also be the case that in terms of wins and losses, these qualities don't matter all that much. But I think we need to at least consider whether a guy like Michael Young might possess some intangibles that should be valued even if they can't be measured.

    There's one thing I can be sure of: there are the things we can measure and the things we can't. We ALWAYS give greater attention to the things we can measure, and we often suspect that the things we can't measure may not exist or may not be important (or else why is it that we can't measure them?). But our ability to measure something may reflect our skill at measuring things and not the importance of what we're trying to measure. Consider that the entirety of the universe we can see, and measure, amounts to roughly 4% of what there is. The realms of dark matter and dark energy make up 96% of the universe (by current estimation), and we could not detect dark matter or dark energy if we were to trip over this stuff in a room full of particle physicists. Until very recently, we did not even know of the existence of dark matter or dark energy.

    I don't know if any of this applies to Michael Young. Maybe I'm just in a mystical mood these days.