In the past couple of weeks, in the wake of the Michael Young brouhaha, this adorable video got some circulation. Go ahead and watch it. I'll wait. ...
Everybody back? Good. It's hilarious and a little heartbreaking as this 3-year-old tries to comprehend life as a Rangers fan without his beloved Michael Young. God bless his little heart. My boy (who is 4) would feel the same way if Joe Mauer were traded.
But here's the thing (aside from the fact that Young didn’t actually get traded): When you get past being a toddler, you have to grow up a little. Baseball, whether you acknowledge it or not, is a business. It is a multinational, multibillion dollar business that is larger than any one player (with the possible exception of Albert Pujols; that dude is awesome). So if you're sad that Michael Young is leaving your team, I get that. I do. But if you feel that he has somehow been horribly wronged by the Rangers, and are vowing to stop following Texas because your hero is leaving, just understand that you are displaying the emotional maturity of my 4-year-old.
Let me tell you a dirty secret: baseball players are just people. Some of them are very good people. Some of them are hilarious. Some of them you shouldn't trust with your sister. Some of them are jerks. Most are some combination of all of the above. Because taken as a whole, ballplayers are probably no better than you or me (or at least me; I don't know you that well). If you treat them as role models or gods, if you put them on a pedestal, you will almost invariably be disappointed.
And here's another secret: Michael Young just isn't that great of a ballplayer anymore. For one thing, he's totally inadequate in the field. For another, he really can't hit very much anymore, either. His raw numbers are helped tremendously by his home ballpark, and twice over the past three years he has been unable to crack a .700 OPS in road games. Do you need more evidence of this? Consider the fact that there doesn't seem to be a single team in Major League Baseball that wants to take on him and his contract. Michael Young is simply not worth the money.
Look, you understand this. You do. Private companies take under-performing employees and either find new and better ways to use them or let them go. In the real world, people change jobs all the time (present economic downturn excluded).
Maybe we want to believe differently because of how much the game means to us, or because of the memories we associate with the game. Or maybe because Joe Nathan gave our 4-year-old an autograph once. That stuff is important, don't get me wrong; I live that part of being a fan. But seriously, grow up.
Understand that baseball is a team game. That we count ourselves as Twins fans, Yankees fans, Giants fans and Rockies fans. Understand that when teams make decisions to try to move players like Michael Young, they're not trying to hurt that player. They are trying to make that team -- your team -- better. Because, as much as you love Michael Young, the Dodger fans, Brewers fans, Rays fans and Cardinals fans love winning more. That's why most fans watch games and come to the ballpark. That’s how new fans get made. And the team has an obligation to you, to your city and to itself to pursue that goal. No matter how much it hurts the sensibilities of a 4-year-old.
The Common Man writes for The Platoon Advantage on ESPN’s SweetSpot Network. You can follow him on Twitter.