He took the money. He did what every one does, what you or I would do. When the Angels offered $125 million, including a $2 million dollar charitable donation, Josh Hamilton signed up and bugged out of the Metroplex, bringing to an end one of the most interesting and awkward tenures in Rangers history. Josh was beloved in Texas because he was larger than life and he was ours. Except Josh couldn't end it there. He couldn't keep his mouth shut.
Josh came out in February and said that Dallas was not a baseball town. He's right of course, but for a guy like Josh, who's had trouble at times helping himself off the field, he threw gas on the fire. "They're supportive (Rangers fans)," Hamilton said, "but they also got a little spoiled at the same time pretty quickly." So says the guy with the $123 million dollar contract. "It will be mixed feelings from the crowd," Hamilton said. "People who
really get it will cheer and the people who don't will boo. Either way,
I'll do what I got to do to help my team win." People who "get it" will cheer. I'm not sure what we're supposed to "get."
In many ways it was a cheap shot at an organization that had put up with Josh's, at times, erratic behavior because of his unquestioned ability. He was a guy you could pull for. A recovering addict who had, in his major league career, gone from a first round pick to out of the game to MVP. He was also a walking contradiction. He had a tendency to put himself front and center either by design or inadvertently. He was a devout Christian except for his very public failings. He was a role model, except when he wasn't.
His peculiar talent for narcissistic, odd behavior was illustrated this year when he came "home."
His Own, Personal Jesus
After an offseason where he called the Metroplex out for NOT being a baseball hotbed and assured fans if they booed it meant they didn't get it, Josh came "home" for the first time a couple of weeks ago. He could have kept his mouth shut, played the game, endured the boos, but then that's not really in Josh. After a boo filled Friday night, Josh met the media and did what we all do when faced with adversity, compared himself with Jesus Christ. "Somebody came and shared that with me,'' Hamilton said. "Where did people get on Jesus the most? In his hometown. It's one of those things, where baseball-wise, this is my hometown. They got after it.''
Totally nailed it Josh. Jesus and Josh are like the same story. $125 million in offseason contracts, moving to a division rival, calling out your old team, getting booed at a baseball game...wait, as I type this I'm thinking this Josh and Jesus aren't the same at all. Don't let that slow you down Josh.
Trust me, he won't. Josh is the king of injecting himself into the center of things, whether by design or by lack of awareness.
Watch Bull Durham Josh, Crash Davis teaches Nuke about the proper way to handle the media. Say boring things Josh. "I'm just happy to be here." "Play'em one day at a time." Of course it's boring Josh, write it down.
Heck, even CJ Wilson, who has no inner-monologue, wants Josh to keep his thoughts in his happy place. "It doesn't do me any good to talk about the fans. It doesn't do Josh any good.'' When CJ tells you to handle your business it's time to ponder your decisions.
He Brought Out the Masses
Hamilton doubled down on his off-season thoughts and again injected himself squarely into the middle of the hornets nest later when asked about Ranger fans booing him, "I can't say that I didn't expect it," Hamilton said. "I will never take back what I said until they show up every night for 30 years. But I'm glad I can help create spirit and fire in this town. Honestly, man, that was louder than any playoff game I've ever been to so I'm excited for them about that. Hopefully the fans can carry that on through the season."
So we need 30 years worth of sell-outs for Arlington to be a downright baseball town? Let's eliminate the other 29 franchises including his beloved Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from any baseball town conversation. 30 years of sellouts isn't a baseball town it's a cult. It's also proof that Josh his either crazy like a fox or crazy like a rock. I'm betting he's more rockular in nature. That's a word. Ok, it isn't.
But more importantly Josh created a "spirit and fire in this town" that made the atmosphere "louder than any playoff game" he's been associated with. Yes Josh, you brought the spirit and fire. All you. Don't underestimate your incredibleness big guy. Take yourself seriously much Josh? I mean, baseball Jesus came back to his hometown to bring spirit and fire which created an epic night. An lo the hotdog vendors bent in amazement and every usher confessed that Josh art full of awe and Copenhagen.
Perhaps a subtle dose of humility might be a better approach. That might agree with his Evangelical sensibilities. Subtle movements and vibe have never been Josh's forte. Part of this is attributed to his personality. Addictive personalities are by definition movements to extremes. Whether they gravitate to behavioral modifiers like drugs or trend toward chewing tobacco, tattoos, Mario Kart or exercise there is a need to act outside normal constraints. Whether intentional or not the addictive personality is prone to seemingly selfish acts as they move from one thing to the next to try and cope with the underlying personality disorder.
I'm not sure, but it seems that this type of act wouldn't play well in most major league club houses, including the Rangers, who've remarkably kept their tongue when all about them Josh has been losing his. Add to that Josh's 2012 campaign and it's hard to imagine that the Rangers don't have at least a small tinge of thanks but no thanks when thinking of Hamilton being back in the clubhouse.
2011 Josh Ain't Walking Through That Door
For all the incredible ability he showed last year and in his Rangers tenure, Josh Hamilton fell apart last season. He missed a key series against the Angels in September due to vision problems. Vision problems that he and Ranger doctors attributed to...energy drinks. Wait...what? Yes, Hamilton had to take a few days off because his corneas were drying due to excessive caffeine.
Perhaps his corneas were dry when he was 14th in strikeouts and walked less than the little guy on the back of Master Blaster in Beyond Thunderdome. Fangraphs charted Hamilton at-bats and found that he swung at 60% of pitches last season including 45% of pitches outside the strike zone. 45% of all balls. The strike zone is full of mystery for Josh. It might as well be Hogwarts, Atlantis, or the Bermuda Triangle for all he knows about it.
Now when he made contact, he was amazing, but if he'd just learn to be selective he could be legendary. Instead Josh's swing generated more wind power than a Boone Pickens' wind farm last season.
What most folks remember about Hamilton's 2012 season were the months of April and May when he hovered around .370 with with 21 homers. What folks don't remember, at least those who "get it," were the months of June and July when he hit .200 with 8 homeruns. Hamilton rebounded in August and fell back in September.
Worse, when the Rangers needed their best player to pull them to a pennant, Josh was no where to be found. A critical drop on a routine fly ball was the nail in the coffin for the Rangers AL West hopes, after the team dropped 4 of 12 to end the season including a sweep by the eventual AL West chamption A's.
Now no one is pinning the September swoon of the Rangers solely on the shoulders of one Josh Hamilton but for the Rangers to pony up $125 million and commit to five years to retain his services the organization needed more. Add to that his combustible personality, frequent physical breakdowns, and age and there's no way the Rangers were going to give him that kind of cash.
These aren't the Rangers of 2001 who gave A-Roid a brinks truck and a mini giraffe to spare everyone in Arlington to death for a number of years. No, John Daniels and the braintrust are keen assessors of something called value and the bang for the buck ain't there with Hamilton.
Just Keep Running Josh
The Astros traveled out to Anaheim to play the Angels a few weeks ago. With one out in the bottom of the 9th Hamilton reached first. On a foul pop Hamilton, thinking there were two outs, rambled around second heading for third as Jason Castro caught the foul. To his surprise and the rest of the Astros, Hamilton was still legging it out allowing Castro to double him off first. Game over. Josh continued running, straight into the Angels dugout, as though nothing happened. His teammates watched with a mixture of confusion and awe that their $125 million dollar man could so nonchalantly make such a base running gaffe.
Angels manager Mike Socia defended his $125 million dollar investment “That’s a mental mistake,” he said. “As perfect as players try to play, as hard as they try to play, unfortunately mental mistakes are going to creep into the scenario. We’ve seen it, guys on other teams. And Josh is accountable. He knows he messed up.”
A mental mistake? With Josh mental mistakes seem to be more than the rule than the exception.