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Give the 22-year-old a chance

July 14, 2008

by Stephen Wiblemo

Something has been bothering me, as I talk to friends and read web posts from disheartened Twins fans, about the lack of patience some people have with Delmon Young.

I am constantly hearing and reading complaints from disgruntled fans calling for Young to be traded or sent to the minors.

Whenever this happens, I feel compelled to defend the young star.

So here is my case for why everyone should just back off the kid and stop hating on Young.

The first thing I always have to remind people is how young he is. In June 2003, when he was just 18 years old, he signed his first major league contract.

That is a lot of pressure for a young kid, and a lot of responsibility. When I was 18, my biggest responsibility was making sure the racks of Mountain Dew big gulps were always full in the gas station I worked at.

Granted, there are bigger responsibilities that many 18-year-olds face, like fighting a war.

Still, making millions of dollars at that age would be intimidating. The pressure to perform and prove that you are worth what you are being paid would be astounding.

After just a couple years in the minors, Young made his major league debut near the end of the 2006 season and played in just 30 games. In 2007, he played his first complete season, starting in all 162 games. In that year he finished with a .288 average, 93 RBI, and 13 home runs.

Today, Young is 22.

As of last Wednesday, he had a .288 average, 34 RBI, and 3 home runs, and we are just reaching the All-Star break.

Let’s compare Young’s age and experience to that of two other Twins stars, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

Morneau was drafted in 1999. In 2003, several years later, a 22-year-old Morneau made his debut in the majors. He played in 40 games and finished with a .226 average and just 16 RBI.

As for Mauer, he was drafted in 2001 and made his major league debut in 2004. The following season, when he was 22 years old, he hit a .294 average with 55 RBI and nine home runs.

The point of mentioning those two in comparison to Young is that they were both allowed to mature into the stars they are today.

Young has the same potential they had when they were his age. Now we just need to give him the opportunity to let it flourish.

So far, all I have talked about is offensive statistics. Defensively, I will admit, he must improve.

Playing in the Dome is not easy, I’ve done it. Trying to see a fly ball with that white bubble above you can be very tricky, but this is no excuse.

I would hope that his defense would also come around with time. Plus, come 2010 he won’t have to worry about playing in the Dome anymore.

Still, defense is his weakest point this season.

With the rise of Denard Span, and Michael Cuddyer’s eventual return, manager Ron Gardenhire is going to have four competent choices to fill the outfield. Maybe a little competition will light a fire under Young?

We’ll have to see.

I think the main reason for Twins fans’ frustration revolves around all the hype that came with Young when Minnesota first acquired him.

He was a No. 1 draft pick that we had to give up talented young pitching and defensive players for (Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett), something the Twins don’t easily part with.

Along with the hype about Young’s potential was the hype about his attitude problems in the past.

Everyone is familiar with Young’s infamous bat throwing incident in 2006 that got him a 50-game suspension.

So, when he came here, I think Twins fans had mixed feelings about him. They were excited with the potential they were reading about in newspapers, but leery of his past reputation as a head case.

Now that he hasn’t lived up to many of the standards he was being held to, mostly as a power hitter, people are giving up.

It is too early to want to get rid of Young, and I think Twins brass feels the same way.

So what if he has only hit a handful of homers and has left many, many, many runners stranded on base.

If he can keep his head, and his average, up, those clutch hits with guys on will come, and we’ll be seeing a lot more out of the young Mr. Young.