When Delmon Young was traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Minnesota Twins in 2007 as the centerpiece that sent Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza from Minnesota to Tampa, the reaction around Minnesota was mixed.
In some camps the thought was the Twins got a bat that they were previously reluctant to get, especially when having to give up a top pitching prospect to do it. The line of thinking here was that it was an encouraging sign that the Twins front office was willing to stray from their ways when a player was available they really want.
On the other side, there were concerns that Garza, the top pitching prospect in the organization for so many years, would turn out to be a stud and Delmon Young’s temper and lack of work ethic would catch up to him, leading fans to think the deal was a bust.
Two years after this deal was complete, not only was the latter looking more like the truth, it was looking worse than everyone feared.
Matt Garza won the ALCS most valuable player in 2008 on the way to a World Series appearance for the Rays, and tallied two years with an ERA under four.
Even more frustrating was the forgotten man in the trade, Jason Bartlett, putting up numbers he never even approached in a full season in Minnesota. After hitting .286 and being a key component of the 2008 World Series Rays, he played even better in 2009, becoming an All-Star while swiping 30 bags and hitting 14 home runs on the year.
On Minnesota’s side, Brendan Harris, who also came over in the trade, was not living up to the numbers he put up in Tampa the year before he came to the Twins.
With Harris being a non-factor and Young, while hitting respectably, playing awful defense and not living up to his five tool player potential while also looking out of shape and slow, it looked as if Terry Ryan had made a very rare mistake.
Enter 2010, where the deal which appeared to be lost, has been flipped on it’s head.
Jason Bartlett has been injured and is only hitting .226, disappointing for many fantasy owners as well as his employer, and Matt Garza is having a more pedestrian year, with an ERA approaching 4.5.
But the real reason the deal has turned around is the play of Young, who has taken the bull by the horns this season, something unimaginable for those who witnessed his lazy play over the last two years in Minnesota.
Young continues to show great gap-to-gap power with 22 doubles and even a little deep ball potential, ranking fourth on the team in homers with nine.
Young’s .307 average is good for 15th in the AL, while his 56 RBI ties Justin Morneau for the team lead and ranks eighth in the AL.
Young’s escapades haven’t gone unnoticed nationally, as he was selected as one of five players to be on the AL’s Final Vote ballot for the last spot on the AL All-Star Game roster.
As of today he ranks fifth, with Nick Swisher leading, and has virtually no shot of getting in with the likes of Paul Konerko, Kevin Youkilis, Swisher, and Michael Young all having statistically better seasons than Young.
Young, however, isn’t worried about the outcome.
“Just be thankful everything is going pretty good this year,” said Young to MLB.com. “I’m just honored that I was even mentioned.”
That’s right, a little humility from Young as well, hard to believe considering his checkered past that includes throwing bats at umpires.
So what’s behind this turnaround for Young?
That last statement by Delmon himself might hold the answer.
Young will soon be 24 years old, and over four years removed from his bat toss in the minor leagues that got him a 50 game suspension. His disappointments from there were numerous, and one might think that Young has grown up and realized a number one overall pick in any draft comes with responsibility and expectation.
It seems Young started to take it seriously this offseason, losing 30 pounds and becoming a more disciplined hitter, already walking 16 times compared to 12 last year and striking out only 35 times in 258 at bats this year as opposed to 92 in 395 AB’s last year.
There are other theories out there, as esteemed colleague and former Minnesota Daily writer Mark Heise will tell you.
“Delmon Young just needs to play everyday,” said Heise. “I’ve been saying this since his playing time became inconsistent in 2009. He’d have stretches where he’d raise his average 15 or 20 points, and then only play half the games over the next month and a half. If he receives consistent playing time he is a very solid player.”
Whatever it may be Young has become a solid contributor and has come a long way since his arrival in Minnesota. With continued play like this, while he may not make the All-Star game this year via the Final Vote balloting, he could be an all star for years to come for Minnesota.