Josh Hamilton talking his way out of Texas?
Josh Hamilton has done an amazing job coming back from his dark past of drug and alcohol addiction to become one of the premier players in baseball while he continues to fight for his sobriety. He reached the top of his game in 2010, when he was named the American League MVP, and helped lead Texas to their first playoff series win, and back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. His combination of size, speed, and power make him a constant danger to opposing pitching and a valuable asset in the field, when healthy. However, things seem to be less that stellar between Hamilton and the Rangers, and with an impending free agency for the slugging outfielder after this season, things are looking like Josh Hamilton is talking his way out of town.
The problems started bubbling to the surface in February when Hamilton reportedly had a relapse with alcohol. He immediately re-entered treatment to get back on track, and everything else, including a contract extension with the Rangers, went immediately on hold. Because of that delay, Hamilton came to Spring Training without a contract and reporters inevitably asked him about his future with the team, and Hamilton responded like you would expect an old WWE heel to when he was trying to get the crowd to boo him.
“The Rangers have done a lot for me, but I’ve got a question y’all: Have I done a lot for the Rangers? I think I’ve given them everything I’ve had…I don’t think anybody can say I haven’t. When it comes down to it, people don’t understand, fans don’t understand, this is a business, this is an entertainment business.”
Watching professional wrasslin as a kid, there was no quicker way to get the crowd to turn on you than having a “You people,” speech, and this came across much in that manner. YOU people don’t understand, YOU fans don’t understand. If this were WWE, the next part would have been drowned out by boos. Hamilton then continued on, shifting his persona from wrestling heel to Brick Tamland as he just started telling things he saw that he loved them.
“I love Texas. I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I love everything about it.”
“I love bat.” “Josh, do you really love bat, or are you just saying that because you see a bat?” “…I love bat.” Hamilton then gave the press the kindling for the fan’s frustrations.
“But…I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”
While normally I would agree with an athlete saying he doesn’t owe his team, Hamilton is a special case. Before 2007, Hamilton was out of baseball because of his drug and alcohol addiction. He was drummed out of MLB, but then got some help, and the Rangers (via the Reds) gave Hamilton another shot, knowing he was a weak moment away from falling back into his dark vices and out of baseball once again. They’ve without question benefited from Hamilton on the team, but there was just as much risk when they signed him as the reward has been since. That being said, he is a player trying to do the best he can for himself, so he really doesn’t owe the Rangers…but he also doesn’t need to be saying it like that in public.
Another person that was disappointed in the way Hamilton vented his feelings was general manager Jon Daniels, who will be a big part of the negotiation process for Hamilton’s future in Texas.
“I still don’t like the choice of words because it has a bad connotation, leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth…I don’t think I would have phrased it that way.
“The only issue I had with what Josh said, somebody asked him a follow-up question…He says ‘Well, I play hard, I give what I have with the Rangers.’ For me, that’s in the job description. That’s the expectation. You don’t get extra credit for that.”
So no bonus points with the GM, and definitely no bonus points with the fans (who, if you recall, don’t understand), so will Hamilton be making his farewell tour in the Lonestar State this season? The Rangers may prefer it and as Mike Luna at Nolan Writin’ explains, the fans could welcome it.
Even without the latest PR bungle, Hamilton is a big risk to sign to a lucrative long-term contract. The big swinging outfielder is a huge injury risk, playing in more than 140 games only once in four seasons with Texas (and it was the first, 2008). Even his MVP season, he missed most of the last month of the season after crashing into the outfield wall, which hampered him during the playoff run at times. Last season, his production dipped and then we found out it was because he had been diagnosed with a sports hernia. The injuries keep mounting, and have kept Hamilton from playing his natural position of center field, with his transition to left become more and more permanent. He also presents an off-field risk, as his latest relapse demonstrates. Nobody questions Hamilton’s dificult road to recovery and the tremendous work he’s put in to get to where he is should be commended. But as we’ve seen, that road is slick, and he could fall off at any time. The next relapse could be worse and Hamilton may not be able to come back from it.
Despite all that, there is going to be a demand for his skills and his price tag is going to be high come free agency. While the Rangers are going to get the first crack at him when that happens, will they want to sink a huge investment into such a risky player who seems to be losing the fans? Or is Hamilton Texas two-stepping his way out of town to brighter lights and fatter checks? The Rangers have lost big stars via free agency the last two years (Cliff Lee 2010, C.J. Wilson 2011), and my guess is that Hamilton will continue that trend in 2012.