May 12, 2010

Delmon Young Day - - Staying away from numbers

Three months ago, Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target proposed that Twins bloggers take part in "Nick Punto Day." It was a day that turned into a big success, with a countless number of bloggers writing their thoughts on Nick Punto. So now, three months later, we have another day designated to another controversial player.

So without further adieu, here are my thoughts on Delmon Young:

(Warning: Most (ok, all) of what you're about to read is is scatterbrained.)

When the Twins acquired Young, I was ecstatic. On top of having enormous potential, he was one of my favorite players in baseball. Before going ahead, I'll explain why I liked him so much. You see, I have a personal vendetta against all umpires and when he did this, I couldn't help but fall in love with him:

I'm kidding of course. In all honesty, the (then) Devil Rays were my second favorite team in baseball. Was it due to their propensity for being one of the worst teams in baseball? A little. Who doesn't like the underdog? But it mostly stemmed from my love of Minor Leagues Baseball. The Rays were then (and now) known for an excellent farm system, so naturally, I followed them very closely.

Young was drafted with the first pick in the 2003 draft out of Camarillo High School (CA). He was immediately compared to the likes of Albert Belle and Gary Sheffield, so when he flew the Rays farm system, those comparisons looked began looking legitimate.

But besides enormous talent, what do both Belle and Sheffield have in common? They both have attitudes and are often seen as angry men. And unfortunately, neither of those were lost in Young. He was upset when he wasn't called-up to the Majors as a 19-year-old in 2005. And as it turns out, he was even more upset that he spent most of the 2006 season in the Minor Leagues (thanks in most part to his bat-throwing incident).

He was an undisciplined, immature kid both on and off the field, which the Rays had no answer for. They allowed him to walk all over the organization, letting him spout off to teammates and management whenever he felt like it. But what were they to do? He was the future of their team. But I can't fault the organization for giving up on him, instead I fault Young.

We all live and learn and I'm sure Young (if he could) would change a lot of things about his past. He knows he messed up, but all he can do now is try and move forward. But unfortunately, he hasn't been able to get over the hump.

While breezing through the Minor Leagues, Young didn't learn a lot of the fundamentals that makes a good baseball player. He was fed a heavy-dose of fastballs, and never learned how to hit a breaking ball. He's since had to learn how to hit sliders and curveballs at the highest level. This has been an ongoing struggle for Young, but he has made steady improvements in both areas. He also had to learn how to be a professional off the field, which has been perhaps his biggest challenge throughout his career.

He has always had problems fitting in with members of the clubhouse, but that looks to be changing. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said in Spring Training that some of Young's past struggles have helped make him into a great teammate. He put in a lot of work in the off-season and lost almost 30 pounds. I'm sure that has done a great deal of good to his self-esteem.

I still like Young. In fact, I probably like him more than most people. I admire the fact that he's been through a lot and that he's putting in the effort to try and ensure that his future is brighter than his past. But he still has a lot of work to do and unfortunately, he may never reach the potential he once had. But that's alright. Although we sometimes act like it's more, baseball is only a game and if Young continues to improve as a human, he'll be a winner.


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