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Kid has point, and bad timing, too

By GARY SHELTON
Published September 14, 2005


From the sound of it, it is going to be difficult for Delmon Young to lift a franchise upon his shoulders. Given the size of the chip already there, there might not be room.

The kid clobbered the club Monday. Two days short of his 20th birthday, and one major-league hit short of his first, Young showed the Devil Rays exactly what kind of pop he has.

Cheap, he called the Rays. Discourteous, he suggested. Just passing through, he threatened.

In other words, Young sounded exactly like a ticket buyer. If it had been anyone else, you might have yelled "good eye."

Ah, the poor Rays. They cannot even win awards properly. Someone hands a kid a trophy, and the next thing you know, he's flogging the franchise with it. That's the way it works. Around here, a prospect doesn't even get to town before he is saying that he cannot wait to get out.

And for your information, the plane to "Here We Go Again" is now boarding.

Far be it from me to criticize anyone for criticizing the Rays, a franchise that has begun each day of the past decade pleading for it. We have all scolded the Rays in the past. It is a different sound, however, when it comes from The Future. Then it sounds whiny and petulant. Then it sounds like trouble in the waiting room.

For the record, I think Young is absolutely right in what he is thinking. Also, I think he is absolutely wrong in saying it.

Tired? Come on. Young is 19 years old. Do you remember 19? At 19, tired has nothing to do with baseball. At 19, tired has to do with homework, housework and getting yelled at by your dad. At 19, a kid can muster the energy to play in Fenway.

Nope, I am certain this was mostly about the long-term implications of Young's contract. Also, I am certain it is hard to blame the Rays for it.

When a phenom is ripping it up in the minors, the way Young has all year, there are only two reasons not to call him up to the mother ship. One is maturity. The other is money.

Maturity? Does Young sound mature? Does he sound ready? No, he doesn't. With Young, the sense of entitlement always has been a concern. Sometimes, in baseball, "hitting it" is easier than "getting it."

Money? Consider this: If Young really is going to work for the Rays for a finite number of games, why in the world should they waste any of them on this season which, technically, hasn't been important since last season?

Look, none of this is any reason to start fretting over the 2012 season (or so). How one feels as a teenager rarely is how they feel in their mid 20s. If the Rays have not reinvented themselves by the time Young is a free agent, he's gone anyway. And he'll have company.

The immediate problem seems to be that right now, the team and the talent are having a rough patch in their marriage. Young's potential teammates are busy rolling their eyes. As of yet, there is no word from Cooperstown.

What, then, are we to do about the latest dose of unpleasantness? As always, I am here to help.

Frankly, someone needs to say a couple of words to Young. "Humility" comes to mind. Also, "diplomacy."

Look, the Rays don't need Young to define the team; they need him to redefine it. They need him to be a solution, not another problem.

Young needs to realize this. Around here, people feel about the Rays pretty much the same way he seems to. We think they can be discourteous. We think they are a badly run business. We think they are cheap, though to be honest, most of us think that without benefit of having been paid around $6-million so far. Play his cards right, and Young could be seen as a man of the people.

Here's the thing, though. Young cannot afford for that kind of message to come from him. At this point, he has a lot more reputation to lose than the team.

Baseball is a game to be entered quietly. Talk too soon about how cheap a team is, and you appear greedy. Say too much about getting out of town, and you seem not to care. Complain too loudly about what you do not have, and you seem self-centered.

Is Young frustrated? Sure. Who isn't?

Frankly, someone needs to say a couple of words to the Rays, too. "Communication" is a good word. "Repercussion" is another.

Depending on who you believe here, how hard is it to make a phone call? Doesn't anyone have a few minutes left on their cellular plan? Are the Rays so swamped with their playoff plans than no one can talk to Young's agent?

Granted, in most instances, the most important part of not being called up is "not called." For years, however, the Rays have talked about their higher-profile prospects as if they were something special, something vital. There is a responsibility with that.

There is this, too. The Rays have to be aware there is a growing feeling among the fans, and among the minor leaguers, that the franchise will not harvest a crop even when it is ripe. That's an awful message to send. If a prospect deserves promoting, then money shouldn't be an obstacle.

Of course, we all would like to see Delmon Young. Who wants to wait for the Next Big Thing? We want him to play rightfield tonight and to bat third. We want him to face a full count with runners on. We want a preview.

That said, Young still has dues to pay, and he still has lessons to learn.

That torch? Delmon, that is supposed to light the future.

It isn't supposed to set fire to the franchise.

[Last modified September 14, 2005, 02:15:34]


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