Delmon Young is a truly miserable ballplayer, a corner outfielder who plays defense like arranging to arrive at the same place and time as a descending baseball was an act of astronavigation comparable to trying to dock with an orbiting space station and who hit fairly well -- for the average shortstop of 1925 who was raised on a diet of roots and tubers. Nonetheless, in January Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. decided he wanted to have Young's company for the summer. Each afternoon after supper they would sit out on the porch, quietly discussing the events of the day as the sun set behind the trees, a pitcher of sweet tea sweating on the table between their matching wicker chairs. Maybe there would be a postseason series or two to talk about.
Alas, it's rare that we find a true soul-mate, even when the vision seems so vivid and real. Young may have once been the first-overall pick in the amateur draft, but 2003 was a long time ago, and but for an out-of-character midsummer hot streak in 2010, he has long since proved that he's a platoon designated hitter at best-and one with character issues to boot (and more than one). The Phillies, alas, have only sporadic opportunities to utilize a DH.
Still, they gave it the old college try, and since they were only risking $750,000 plus incentives, their exposure was limited ( a truly un-Phillies-like thing to do). Today, as Young was just nine plate appearances away from reaching one of those incentives, the Phillies moved to end their exposure altogether, designating the veteran for assignment. Young departs the Quaker City with rates of .261/.302/.397 and a ranking (via Baseball-Reference wins above replacement) in the bottom eight players in all of baseball.
Eight years into his major-league career, the only black ink on the back of Young's baseball card is for leading the American League in grounding into double plays.
The Phillies replaced Young on the roster with Casper Wells, acquired off of waivers from the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. Like Young, Wells does most of his hitting against left-handed pitching, but is far more versatile defensively -- which is to say you don't have to watch him chase fly balls through your fingers. His acquisition, along with the return of Domonic Brown from the concussion disabled list and the quick start by Darin Ruf when he was substituting for the latter meant that Young's days were numbered. According to Danny Knobler of CBS, the Phillies had considered releasing Young earlier this season but a momentary hot streak had saved him at that time. Now there was no reason to wait -- at 26, Ruf is not quite a year younger than Young, but he has to be viewed as having considerably more upside at this point.
It remains to be seen if another team will be willing to sign a great guy like Young, even for the minimum. At this point he might have to go back to the minors and rebuild his reputation, because the majors have little room for a weak-fielding proto-DH who doesn't hit for average, doesn't hit for power, doesn't walk, doesn't run, and embarrasses his team with bad judgment.