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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

As long as Young toes line, Rangers will be fine


SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Michael Young needs a villain, then I guess it's just as well he chose Jon Daniels.

If Young needs to sit in front of a room of reporters looking unhappy, then Feb. 19 is as good a day as any.

And if the Rangers had to hold twin press conferences to discuss the state of relations with the All-Star infielder regarded as the face of the team, better to do it when spring training begins than when it ends.

Michael Young greets teammates after arriving for the first day of Rangers spring training. (AP)  
Michael Young greets teammates after arriving for the first day of Rangers spring training. (AP)  
Saturday wasn't the best of days in Rangers history, and the idea of the defending American League champion kicking off spring like this felt a lot more Yankee-like than Ranger-like.

Young asked to be traded after Texas signed two-time Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre on Jan. 5, supplanting Young at third base.

But I still feel this story has a lot more chance to have a happy ending than it does to fall apart worse than it already has.

Let's start with the givens.

First off, barring some weird twist (and there have been enough of those already), Young isn't getting traded this spring. The Rangers won't make a deal that weakens their 2011 team, and no other kind of deal exists for them.

Second, the next six weeks will be the easy part. Young will be around his teammates and his manager (all of whom he loves). He'll be playing baseball (which he also loves), and because he needs the work at third base, second base and particularly at first base, he'll be playing regularly in the field (which he loves, too).

Third, as long as he sticks to his commitment not to talk about anything trade-related, that issue will soon die. Oh, someone may bring it up, but with little chance of a deal happening and without him discussing it, there's really not much to say.

There is one way this whole thing could become a mess again. Let's say the Rangers start off slow, that maybe they're under .500 at the end of April. Let's say Young also starts slow, maybe hitting .220 over the same period.

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Does Young then start thinking his new role is the problem?

Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. But let's say the Rangers play well in April, and Young is off to a great start. Maybe because of manager Ron Washington's creativity or maybe injury or ineffectiveness from others, Young ends up spending more time in the field than anyone expects.

Then it's not much of an issue, is it?

Perhaps by then, Young and Daniels will come to some kind of understanding. It's not likely to happen soon, based on Young's answer when he was asked whether he planned to talk to the Rangers general manager.

"It is not on my priority list at all," he said.

Now none of us know all the details here, and neither Young nor Daniels was prepared to share them Saturday. But it's hard to believe Daniels was solely responsible for the missteps on the Rangers side, and also hard to believe all the mistakes that led Young and the Rangers to this point were made on the team's side.

In the end, though, it doesn't matter.

If Young requires a villain, Daniels will do. From the Rangers' standpoint, better Daniels than Washington, who needs to deal with Young in the clubhouse every day. And better Daniels than Ryan, the Texas icon who runs the organization.

Players need to get along, more or less, with their teammates. They need an understanding, at the very least with their manager.

But the general manager?

"I'd love to walk in and hug everyone every day," Daniels said. "[But] that's not critical for us to win."

I'm not sure the Rangers are going to win, anyway. They have some talented starting pitchers available, but their rotation doesn't yet inspire confidence. (Washington said that as of now, only C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis are guaranteed spots.)

Without question, Adrian Beltre is a better defensive third baseman than Young. But I'm still not sure I would have spent all the money to sign him.

In some ways, it all goes back to Cliff Lee. Just as the Yankees had no good Plan B when Lee rejected them, Lee's decision to sign with the Phillies sent the Rangers spiraling this winter, too.

If Lee stays in Texas, the Rangers don't sign Beltre. Young is still their third baseman. Young then isn't looking for villains, and the Rangers aren't holding twin reporting-day press conferences. (And you're not reading about the Rangers today.)

On paper, the Rangers are a better team with Beltre at third and Young playing everywhere. They're only a worse team if that move causes problems that bring down their season.

You could listen to Young on Saturday and think that's exactly what is happening here. It still could be what's happening here.

But it's a lot more likely that by the end of the season, what happened Saturday will seem like a small part of the story of the 2011 Rangers.


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