I know it wasn’t Michael Young’s best season defensively. I saw it.
I’m not a metrics guy when it comes to baseball defense, though in Young’s Gold Glove case relying on the numbers, at least some of them, might not have hurt. He had the American League’s highest fielding percentage at shortstop (trailing only National League Gold Glove winner Jimmy Rollins), led baseball in double plays, and was second in assists and total chances. You can find a fancy formula like John Dewan’s “revised zone ratings,” which I’m told tabbed Young as the league’s number one shortstop in terms of defensive efficiency.
But in terms of baseball defense, I rely more on my eyes, and yeah, I saw the first-step and range issues. His dependability was in his ability to make the routine play, and turn two. What Young lacks in flashiness, he makes up for in steadiness. And really, that’s true in every aspect of his game, and his character.
He’s going to change positions at some point. It may be this year, it may be next year, it may be after that. It’s going to happen, and I suspect he knows it, and understands it. There’s some merit to the Paul Molitor comp.
And when it happens, the former runner-up Gold Glove second baseman (who should have won) and current Gold Glove shortstop will probably be in the mix to win a Gold Glove at third base.
Especially since he presumably won’t be playing with a fractured finger on his glove hand, and a fractured finger on his throwing hand. If the Gold Glove is hollowed out, someone ought to shove a splint inside.
Those of you who rely primarily on numbers (and I don’t disparage that — it’s just not my thing on defense) will say Young is an undeserving Gold Glover. Maybe so. But I’m not really into baseball awards, for one (MVP awards and Gold Gloves and even All-Star Games aren’t that big a deal to me), and on top of that, the reason yesterday’s recognition was meaningful to me was not because I’d been holding my breath, counting the days until the announcement, but instead because, as a fan of Michael Young for what he brings to the plate and to the field and to the dugout and the clubhouse and the community, I think I know how much it means to him.
That’s because of two things: (1) like last week’s Man of the Year Award and this summer’s All-Star Game nod, the Gold Glove was awarded not because of a set of numbers but because his peers (managers and coaches, in this case) thought he deserved it, a sign of ultimate respect; and (2) when others say he can’t, Michael Young does.
I’m not objective about Young, and neither was the process that led to this award. As the first shortstop in the history of award to win a Gold Glove after starting earlier in his career at a different position, I do believe he’s going to a third baseman at some point — and a very good one — but for now, good for him.
He’s a winner.