Only the good cut YoungWritten by Matt Sussman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week, after the Detroit Tigers dropped a home series with Seattle — the sixth straight series they split or lost — general manager Dave Dombrowski made the only sensible move. He released Dmitri Young. Huh?
Dombrowki and manager Jim Leyland said the move was strictly “performance related.” Young hit .250 for the season with seven home runs. He completed what shall henceforth be known as the Dmitri Young Hat Trick: he went on the disabled list, went into rehab for substance abuse and was arrested for domestic violence.
However, the switch hitting first baseman/designated hitter has hit .300 since returning from injury. And the aforementioned seven homers occurred in that same timeframe.
Sure, he was released based on performance. And I write a blog because of my good looks.
Granted, the argument can be made that Young, since his return, hurt the team. When he was activated from the disabled list on July 22, the Tigers were 64-31. From that day until his release, the Tigers were 21-24.
I wish it were that easy to pin the inconsistency on that man’s performance, but it’s not that easy.
When Young was on his rehab assignment in the minor leagues, I was not gleefully anticipating his return with a “D” on his helmet. His lineup presence meant fewer at-bats for Chris Shelton and Craig Monroe. Not only that, but he was — to reiterate — arrested for domestic violence and recovering from substance abuse. Not exactly the type of bubbling personality most people would like to have in their place of employment.
But once he put the ball in play and hit a couple home runs for Detroit, I let my guard down. The sudden pink slip re-raised eyebrows across the Wolverine State.
Days later, an anonymous source told a Detroit News reporter that Young was a “growing cancer.” Mr. X said Young was “someone who cared too much about himself, and not enough about the team.”
Well, there you have it. He’s baseball’s Terrell Owens — a good player, a bad teammate.
But the Tigers’ recent struggles can’t be pinned squarely on Young. The entire lineup, which earlier in the year was free swinging, has been constipated at the plate. Their division lead, which at one time was a Dmitri Young-sized 10-1/2 games, has shrunk to a Kevin Hooper-thin two games after dropping three of four to second place Minnesota.
So now it’s gut-check time for the Tigers. After posting a losing record in August, the team has to maintain a facade tantamount to Kevin Bacon in “Animal House” (“Remain Calm! All is well!”) while finding a bench player who can replace Young’s offense.
Shelton, whose April was hotter than his fiery hair, is back from a brief visit to the Mud Hens and needs to step up. Fellow first baseman Sean Casey is the equalizer from the left side of the plate, and if you combine their powers into one body they are a switch hitting first baseman who has never been arrested for domestic violence.
Matt Sussman runs the sports blog The Futon Report at www.futonreport.net.