It was a confounding move to make in the middle of a pennant race. The Tigers didn’t need the roster spot. They were likely going to the playoffs, and despite Young's slump, he had been one of their better hitters lately. And yet the Tigers insisted the move was performance related:
"He's been struggling," [Dave] Dombrowski said. "I mean, you can see he's been struggling for an extended period at this point. We tried to get him out of it from a
performance perspective, but it just hasn't happened."
Added [Jim] Leyland: "We just didn't think the performance was up to snuff. Period."
Except that Young had been hitting .292 with an 835 OPS since he had rejoined the team. He had rejoined the team from an injured quadriceps, but apparently had also used the time to deal with alchoholism and depression, attending a rehabilitation facility in California for 30 days. That made some wonder whether a relapse might have prompted the release, but no smoking gun was ever discovered. Instead the additional digging turned up a few sour grapes in the clubhouse:
...a team source indicated that Young had become a distraction in the clubhouse
soon after he returned from the disabled list in July. There was support for
Young in his effort to overcome alcoholism and depression, but his state of mind
and dealing with his issues were preoccupying him by others' observations,
putting much of his focus on himself, rather than the team.
The Detroit News quoted a source that went a little further than that, calling Young "a growing cancer, someone who cared too much about himself, and not enough about the team."
Young has a slightly different explanation. He was dealing with some ugly legal issues at the time, and thinks the Tigers were afraid they would become a distraction, and that legal requirements would limit his ability to participate in the playoffs. Young had been charged with misdemeanor domestic assault for allegedly chocking a 21-year-old girlfriend in a hotel room.
That's the incident that one finds running like a thread through a miserable 2006 seaason. It took place in April with a girlfriend he had for a couple of years. The press got a hold of it in May, shortly after he had missed a few games due to the quadriceps injury. He played shortly thereafter, but was then put on the 15 day DL.
He missed a court date for the charge, which meant Young's lawyers needed to tell the court where he was. Shortly after that it was revealed that he had been at the rehab facility. He finally returned from the DL in July.
He was released in early September. In late September he was sentenced to one year probation for the domestic assault charge. He was also, at some point, told that he would need to stay in Detroit for 30 days and take breathalyzer tests, which likely he meant he couldn't have played on the road in the playoffs. Oh, and to top it all off, he was going through a divorce at the time, too.
Over the offseason, Young found an additional cause to some of his problems. In November, he was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes.
In fact, he spent four days in the Cleveland Clinic in Fort Lauderdale,
Fla., that month. Three of those days, he said, were spent in the intensive care
unit. His blood sugar level was at 893. The doctors told Young he should have
Young said before the diagnosis, he would have mood swings, vision
problems, had problems losing weight and was constantly going to the bathroom.
"I was actually relieved [about the diagnosis] because it answered pretty
much every question that I had -- my mood swings, the inability to lose weight,"
Young said. "I don't have the spots anymore, but I had a lot of spots from the
He contemplated retirement, but was instead brought to spring training by Jim Bowden, GM of the Washington Nationals. Bowden was the GM of the Reds when Young was in their system, and calls Young "a very good kid" who is "extremely apologetic for the mistakes he has made in his life". Bowden also made sure that Young understood there would be a zero-tolerance policy.
Young was supposed to be a longshot to even make the roster - a backup to a backup. Instead, he's playing full time, hitting .337 and slugging .900. He's also right-handed, he's on a club going nowhere, and he's cheap, with a salary of just $500,000 this year. He is, from a purely on-the-field and business standpoint, a perfect fit for the Twins.
The Twins will need to judge for themselves whether 2006 was an aberation, a year that just sprialed out of control for a "good kid". Or possibly whether the diabetes diagnosis has led to a more structured life, one where personal demons might be easier controlled. Their answers, likely being gathered in private, will probably detemine if we find him in a Twins uniform in August.