photo by Samara Pearlstein
I didn’t particularly WANT to have to revisit Dmitri Young, but here goes.
Cliffnotes for those who missed the ugly saga when it was happening: DaMeat had some rather nasty off-field issues (think illicit lady relations, plus abuse, plus court action) combined with some issues on the field, all of which culminated in his release from the Tigers.
It was depressing to think about a player whose enthusiasm for the game we had all enjoyed watching so much in this particular sort of trouble, and quite frankly I think everyone involved just kind of wanted the whole thing to slink away into the night and never come back. Detroit was done with Dmitri, and that would be that. We have a whole team to support. We must move on. Still, disbelief. Big long spiel about the disillusionment of finding out a player you like is an abusive coprolite, even though you intellectually and logically know that the players are “just human”, not of course to say that abuse is something you write off as “just human” behavior, because it’s not, abuse is never ok, lads, are we all clear on that? Yes? Good. So on and so forth.
But Dmitri did not fade quietly away from baseball, and was picked up by the Nationals and extended a probably somewhat wary invitation to camp. I will say this in Dmitri’s favor: he has never been one to mince words or to tiptoe around exactly what he means to say. So.
“My life was spiraling down and I had the incident that went on, and going through a divorce at the same time and I was hurt on the field,” Young said. “Usually my life’s been an even keel, but there was a definite bump in the road. It was a little hard for me to handle at the time. I [went to treatment] myself. This wasn’t from the team or anybody, this was on my own merits. I checked myself in. I got to know about myself in there, too. They had some good shrinks in there.”
Young now says that his problems on and off the field were caused by Type 2 diabetes, which was diagnosed in November. 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 been dead.
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.
Diabetes can indeed cause mood swings. Fluctuating glucose levels have been shown to have some effect on mood, and so have the fluctuating hormone levels that are often associated with Type 2 diabetes. It sounds like Dmitri had a ragingly undiagnosed case of diabetes, and every level in his body was way out of whack. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that these imbalances caused him to become way more aggressive and irritable than normal.
You do have to draw a line of culpability somewhere, though. Unmanaged diabetes can cause severe mood swings. Severe mood swings can affect behavior. But diabetes does not “make” anyone cheat on their wife (I doubt that anyone in baseball needs much help with that) and it does not “make” anyone go around beating the snot out of their girlfriends. I’m not saying that Dmitri’s diabetes didn’t make him abusive when he otherwise would not have been; that could very well be the case. But the fact of the matter is that there are a lot of diabetics out there who suffer the same or similar variable mood effects, and don’t end up in court for it.
That could and probably should have been the end of it. But Dmitri is Dmitri and there’s that whole, y’know, not mincing words things. So.
“I must say [the Tigers] were probably saving their own tail because they thought that the whole court thing there was going to be a distraction for a team that was winning,” Young said. “I thought it was on their part [to issue the unconditional release], especially the time that I spent with the Tigers and represented them in a positive manner. I would have figured they would support me in the same manner but they didn’t.
“If I was in California or Florida, it wouldn’t have been so bad. It would have been like, ‘Aw, it [stinks],’ but I wish the guys well. But being in Detroit — not good.”
OK, first off, what the heck does that last bit mean? I can’t work it out at all. What about California and Florida? Huh? What’s not good about Detroit? It could just be because I’m tired, but I literally have no idea what he’s talking about there.
As for the rest of it…. oy. I can see why Dmitri feels like the Tigers in a sense owed him something; he WAS a positive force, on the whole, at times when the team was not exactly a happy or positive place to be. He at least gave the appearance of enjoying the game and caring about the Tigers when few others did. Maybe that’s how baseball USED to work, but it certainly isn’t enough these days, and hasn’t been for a while now.
It’s probably hard for him to step back from his own perspective and look at the thing from the Tigers’ point of view, but come on now. So far as the Tigers could tell, here was this ballplayer who used to produce but even then was never the steadiest of fellows. He’s having trouble keeping his hands to himself around, ah, those of the female persuasion, and the team was aware of that (long story, and I got it second-or-third-hand, so we’ll let it lie). Then this whole abuse thing comes marching in, and there are mandatory court dates to deal with and a whole big ugly mess.
At that point, yes Dmitri, you became too much of a distraction for everyone, without enough upside to counterbalance it (horrible as it is, if he had been hitting [the baseball] really well while all this was going, the off-field stuff would have been given a much wider berth before crackdown). He certainly can’t expect the Tigers to have known that there MIGHT be some extenuating medical circumstances, not when he himself didn’t even know. And even with those, he was still too problematic and unproductive to be worth keeping around.
I get that he feels slighted or personally offended or whatever by the way the Tigers, in his mind, tossed him aside when the going got rough. But if he took one minute to actually THINK about how things looked from their side of things…
Anyways, Dmitri snarks at the Tigers, Jim Leyland snarks right back.
“I like Dmitri Young very much, and I wish him the best,” Leyland said, “but in my opinion, Dmitri Young was not an asset on the field last year and he also had to take care of some very important issues for the welfare of Dmitri Young.
“You can hold me totally responsible for his dismissal last year. Don’t put it on the organization or anyone else. I did not think Dmitri’s performance on the field was an asset to this organization — and it broke my heart because he was a guy we were counting on.
“The part that upsets me is that this guy missed a lot of the season taking care of a problem he created, not one the Tigers created. The fact that we didn’t support him is (wrong). We supported everything.”
Said Leyland of those comments, “For Dmitri to criticize the organization for lack of support is totally out of line. That’s uncalled for.
“If you want to know the truth, it appears that Dmitri feels the organization disappointed him, and I’m sorry he feels that way. But I feel Dmitri disappointed us.”
Detroit News article
There isn’t much that can be added to that, or that needs to be. You have to smile at Leyland putting the “blame” for sending Dmitri packing on himself, though. That’s 100% Leyland behavior right there.
I suppose the moral of the story is that there is no moral of the story. I wish Dmitri the best both in his management of his diabetes and with his new team. I also wish he could get his head out of his ‘tocks long enough to realize where the Tigers are coming from, because he WAS a fun part of the team, and it would be sad to see that permanently soured.