DETROIT – Delmon Young came up with a big hit whenever the Detroit Tigers needed one during the American League Championship Series and was unanimous pick for Most Valuable Player. The Tigers completed a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees with an 8-1 win on Thursday evening, clinching their 11th American League Pennant.
“It’s great, you know,” said Young, who batted .353 (6-for-17) with two home runs in the series. “As a child growing up [in Alabama], your dreams are always of winning Game 7 in the World Series with a walk-off hit. So it’s fun knowing you get to go there, and especially my childhood dream was playing next to Chipper Jones, trying to beat the Yankees in the World Series.”
This is the second straight year that Young dominated the Yankees in the postseason, after hitting three home runs in the Tigers’ five-game Division Series victory in 2011. This year, Young drove in as many runs (six) as the Yankees scored in the entire series.
“He got hot last year in the playoffs,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Unbelievable. I think he had five home runs last year. He got hot again this year at the right time for us. He stepped it up under the big lights.
“Not that they are not bright all year, but they are a little brighter this time of year. He stepped it up two consecutive years.”
Young, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2003 draft, drove in the winning run in each of the Tigers’ four ALCS victories, including a 12th inning RBI double in Game 1 in the Bronx, and a seventh inning solo home run in Game 3 at Comerica Park. In the process, he also became the 111-year-old franchise’s all-time postseason home run leader with seven, passing Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg.
“My first year [in 2009 with Minnesota], I struggled against the Yankees,” said Young, who was traded to the Tigers from the Minnesota Twins on August 15, 2011. “But I started getting better and better. I need to figure it out for the [regular] season, too.”
During the regular season, he often drew the ire of Tigers fans and Tigers management with his inconsistent play, even briefly being benched when his productivity dipped during a July losing streak. Young, a career .287 hitter, finished the season with a .267 average, 18 home runs and 74 RBI. However, it was his off field behavior that nearly cost him and the Tigers.
On April 27, during the first night of a road trip in New York, Young was arrested and charged with a hate crime stemming from a drunken altercation where he yelled Anti-Semitic slurs at a Jewish man. Major League Baseball suspended Young for seven days following the incident, and is due in court in New York on Nov. 7 to face misdemeanor harassment charges.
When Young was presented the MVP trophy, honorary American League president Jackie Autry drew an uncomfortable silence from the Comerica crowd when she called him a “class act”. For his part, he has maintained a low profile since the incident and his teammates have rallied behind him.
“It was great seeing Delmon hit like we all know he can,” Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta said. “We just told ourselves that we had to keep playing hard. We all talked about just grinding every day and things are going to work out. It did.”