Cliff Lee: Young was Heart and Soul of Rangers
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Cliff Lee and Michael Young weren't teammates for long in Texas -- only for a few months in 2010. But now that they're together again in Philadelphia, Lee says he, and others, were "baffled" by the way the Rangers treated Young in his final few years with the team.
"Like I said, he was the heart and soul of that team for a long time, and I can't understand their thinking on a few of the moves they made with him. He's a really good player. I don't know why you wouldn't just let him do his thing."
-- Cliff Lee, on Rangers' treatment of Michael Young
Lee described Young on Monday as "the perfect teammate" and "the heart and soul of the Rangers," and said he thought the team "borderline took him for granted."
Asked if he understood why the Rangers tried for several years to trade Young, Lee replied:
"I think that baffled a lot of people who were around that organization. Like I said, he was the heart and soul of that team for a long time, and I can't understand their thinking on a few of the moves they made with him," Lee said. "He's a really good player. I don't know why you wouldn't just let him do his thing."
"I don't know their thinking or their motives behind those things," Lee went on. "You don't really have to understand it. They've got their reasons. They've got their theories on their team. And they have the right to do whatever they want, really, as an organization. But in my opinion, you want guys like Michael Young around. And you want him to be happy. And you want to let him go out there and just do what he does.
"He never brings any problems to the scenario at all. So I didn't personally understand it. But I didn't know what was going on behind the scenes."
When Young was informed of Lee's remarks after leaving Monday's game, he told ESPN he prefers to remember the good times in Texas, not "the negative stuff."
"I take nothing but great memories away from my time there. ... As far as everything else that took place, to be honest, that's all noise to me," he said. "The only thing I ever asked for was to be (honest). Give me the straight dope, and when I get on the field, I'm going to give you everything I've got. So looking back on my time in Texas, I don't really focus on the negative stuff. I focus on all the stuff that went well."
Young kept most of his unhappiness to himself in recent years, but did publicly ask to be traded in February of 2011, after the Rangers signed free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and traded for Mike Napoli, leaving Young with a murkily defined role as a part-time DH and part-time super-utility man.
"The biggest misconception about it is that people thought I did it because I didn't want to DH," Young said. "I flat out agreed to do it. That had nothing to do with that. But I hate to open this can of worms again. That stuff is past tense. Im a Phillie now. I'm proud to be a Phillie. And I'm proud to go out and play hard for the people of Philadelphia. Everything that happened in the past, especially negative stuff, is totally over with in my mind."
Lee, who made his spring training debut for the Phillies with two hitless innings Monday, was asked if the treatment of Young was a topic of conversation in the Rangers' locker room.
"Not really," he said. "I mean, it all worked. It all worked out. ... They went to the World Series back-to-back years. And it's hard to second-guess any of those decisions when you're in the World Series. But I think it takes a special personality to handle it the way he did and to still go out on the field and give it 100 percent every time and not let that affect your play on the field. It's just a credit to him as a person and as a competitor and as a baseball player."
Lee later backtracked slightly, praising the Rangers' recent success and "deep pool of players."
"So I've got to say that at the same time I was saying I don't understand what they were doing with Michael Young," he said. "At the same time, they've fielded a pretty good team over the last few years. So you don't really have to understand or know everything that was going on behind the scenes. But the fact of the matter is, they've fielded a pretty good team."
After 13 seasons in Texas, Young was traded to the Phillies in December for pitchers Josh Lindblom and Lisalverto Bonilla. Young had trade-veto rights, but approved the deal after it became apparent his playing time in Texas would be limited by the emergence of top prospect Jurickson Profar.
"Great teammate, and a leader," Lee said of Young. "Definitely in Texas, he was the leader on our team. He was the guy. To have a personality and a player like that on our team just makes us that much better. I can't say enough about him. He was the heart and soul of the Rangers for a while. And they had a pretty good team."
Young did say he appreciated Lee speaking up on his behalf.
"I've always liked Cliff, from the second he got there to Texas in 2010," Young said. "He's been a good friend and a great teammate. It always feels good when you have your teammates' backs. I've only been here for a week and a half, and I've seen it already in here."
ESPN.com Senior Writer Jayson Stark reporting