Phillies Notebook: Michael Young An Unlikely Source Of Team Energy, Enthusiasm
PHILADELPHIA—Domonic Brown’s fifth-inning single to center field on Monday night against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park wasn’t a scorcher. But it had enough mustard on it that most baserunners would have had a tough time making it from first to third.
For players in their age-36 seasons, to that point 13 years and 1,830 games into their big-league careers, that pace made second base a good place to stop.
But stop, Michael Young didn't.
Instead, he muscled on over to third base, forcing a throwing error by Mets left fielder Lucas Duda that helped Brown advance to second – setting the table for the next batter, John Mayberry, who feasted with a 2 RBI single back up the pipe.
Just like that, 2-0 for the home team.
When asked about it, Young didn’t smile and quip back at reporters for insinuating he didn’t have the wheels to pull it off. He didn’t say he for sure he thought he would make it, either.
Instead, he gleaned a mindset.
“If I get thrown out,” he started after an eventual 8-3 win in an offensive outburst to match their best so far and prop up starter Cliff Lee for his second win.
So, why do it?
“It just kind of sets a tone of, This is how we’re going to play. We’re going to be aggressive and we’re gonna stay in attack mode.”
To Young, that tone is paramount. The new Phillies third baseman, acquired via trade from the Texas Rangers over the offseason for his infield versatility and clubhouse presence, has reiterated time and again the importance of playing with energy and enthusiasm.
To the media, anyway.
How vocal about it he is in the clubhouse ought to be among the top items for fans' -- and reporters' -- truth serum list for 2013.
He’s known to be the type to hold teammates accountable.
Some – players included – have whispered about lacking such players last season.
The Phillies started the year 2-5 for the first time since 2007.
The offense was shut down twice in three days after having leapt to a 4-0 lead.
The staff was awful. The bullpen, horrendous.
If it sounds like the perfect time for a subtle pep talk, that’s because it was.
And with the way the Phillies exploded on Tuesday – they hit home runs in 3 of 4 third inning at-bats, muscled 7 hits for 3 runs in the second – with Young in particular leading the charge, it’s worth wondering whether there was a chat.
Not an full-scale intervention. But a particular point of emphasis.
It seems there was. It’s just unclear who started it.
Young was asked whether energy had become a topic of pregame conversation.
“We did (talk about it) a little bit.”
The follow-up: Who led that conversation?
“We talk before every game about our approach, offensively.”
Was it brought up by a player or a coach?
“Everybody. Everybody. I think it was something we all wanted to – I think it’s good for a team when you talk about that, because those are the things you can control. Results, you can’t. You can hit 3 rockets right at the shortstop and you’re 0 for 3. A pitcher can make great pitches and do a good job.
“The one thing you can control out there is your energy level. Go out there. Attack the game. Play with some enthusiasm.”
“I’ve never been a part of a team where good things didn’t come right after that.”
Speculation about who’s uttered what to whom aside, Young’s play is speaking loud and clear.
He went 3 for 4 with 2 runs scored, crushed his first home run as a Phillie and finished just a double short of the franchise’s first cycle since David Bell’s in 2004 – and he’d done most of the damage by the fourth inning.
How? By gutting out a triple on another, should’ve-stopped-at-second-type play.
This season, his first playing third base full time since, he’s batting .345 with a .424 on-base percentage and is slugging .552. That’s good for second in the NL in average and slugging and third in OBP.
It’s unclear how much Young’s departure from Texas – the Rangers are paying all but $6 million of his $16 million in salary, and took only reliever Josh Lindblom in return, primarily to make room for young talent after over a decade of service – has driven him.
After all, he did take up MMA in the offseason, something he’s never before.
But more than trying to prove his old team wrong for moving on, it appears Young is hell-bent on advancing these Phillies as far as he thinks they can go.
Which is to say far.
Said Young: “Tonight was hopefully the start of something good.”
Something Young may well have started.