Tony Gwynn and Vince Young played completely different positions for completely different teams in completely different sports. They are almost polar opposites for each other, in the public mind: Tony Gwynn was the kind of player that everyone loved, gave “110%,” a Hall of Famer. A tremendous all around player (although dWAR doesn’t like his defense), with a couple of MVP caliber seasons, some very good seasons, and a great many solid seasons. It’s not fair to call him strictly a singles hitter — he certainly had some pop in his bat, with 3 years of slugging percentages over .500 — but he was not a prototypical corner outfielder.
Gwynn passed away today. Gwynn was the first athlete I ever really liked; I’ve always been true to the Indians, but the first player who captured my attention was him. His rookie year was the year I was born. We’re both named Tony, left handed, and in Little League, I also played right field and hit a lot of singles. I don’t remember ever hitting a homer in Little League, but I do remember a couple of triples. Then Ken Griffey Jr. debuted, and while I still liked Gwynn, Griffey sort of took over.
RIP, Tony Gwynn. You were my first love, in a strictly baseball sense.
In contrast, I don’t have the same emotional attachment to Vince Young. Young retired today, and in this Sports on Earth article, his legacy is evaluated, and it’s very different from Gwynn’s.
Young is one of those players who should have been fantastic. I enjoyed watching him in college, and he was fun to watch in the pros, too. When the Browns signed him, I was in favor of it. Yet, for whatever reason, he never put it all together. That article reminds me a lot of Zach Greinke, except Greinke got back in the game and Young never did.
I feel a little sad for Young too, because he could have been so much more. Vince Young is not Tim Tebow; Tebowmania is among the stupidest trends the NFL has produced in the last ten years. Tebow was a B+ college QB who got recognition for scrambling in a great system. He was never a great passer. Young, at least, was a good passer, although the same comments could apply him regarding scrambling and system.
The NFL chews up and spits out QBs entirely too quickly. Too many QBs are victims of small sample size. I hope Vince Young can find a career that suits him, because apart from weird habits like spending $5000 a week at the Cheesecake Factory (seriously), he seems like a nice guy. Maybe he’ll have a career renaissance in a year or two, or play in the Arena Football League. I still think the Browns shouldn’t have cut him. Maybe he can prove to be a cautionary tale to Johnny Manziel.