Well after much consideration and hard work writing this paper I am finally going to publish this paper I’ve been working on for so long. Go ahead and read it, I know you do.
April 29, 2013
The Free Agency of Josh Hamilton
Growing up as a Rangers fan, I have been there for some of the highest and lowest moments of Texas Rangers’ history. Since I can remember my dad and I have been to at least one game a season, August 19, my birthday. It has only failed twice since we have started going that the Rangers did not play on my actual birthday. This past year we actually thought we were going to miss the game since we had taken a trip to Canada to visit family. Being about three hours outside of Toronto, my dad surprised me by taking me to a Blue Jays’ game and it just so happened they were playing the Rangers at the Rogers Centre. The Rangers came into that game with the series tied 1-1 and this was the rubber match. They had a tough time starting out going down 1-0 after the 2nd inning and that is when it seemed that the Rangers turned on the jets and kicked it into high gear. They came in swinging hard in the 3rd inning and did not look back. They scored 2 in the 3rd, 1 in the 4th, 5 in the 5th, 2 in the 6th, and 1 in the 9th while only conceding 2 total runs to the Jays. The game ended, and we drove back to the Ottawa Valley. We went back to my grandmother’s house where I spent the rest of my birthday eating cake and enjoying my time with my Canadian relatives making memories.
To be completely honest, some of the greatest moments I have ever experienced in my life have been at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and even the old Arlington Stadium. I remember being there August 4, 1993, at old Arlington Stadium when young Robin Ventura decided to charge the mound after being hit by a pitch that sailed high and hit Ventura in the back. Ventura charged the mound where a man who just announced his retirement at the beginning of the season was waiting for him. Nolan Ryan, 46 years old, grabbed Ventura and put him in a head lock and got in few solid hits before Pudge pulled Ryan off of Ventura. I was there April 23, 2012, when Pudge signed a 1-day contract with the Rangers to retire as a Ranger. He threw out the ceremonial 1st pitch in a rather odd fashion. Instead of throwing it from the mound to a catcher, Pudge stood behind home plate and threw a throw down ball to his former teammate Michael Young at 2nd base who was waiting to make an imaginary tag of a runner stealing 2nd. I was even there the day Josh Hamilton took his first at bat at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington against the Orioles on April 7, 2008. Hamilton went 1 for 4 in the game with a single to center field for his only hit of the game.
Josh Hamilton, born May 21, 1981, drafted number 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. Some say Josh was destined to be one of the greatest to play the game. He had the speed of Ken Griffey Jr. mixed with the power and strength of Jose Conseco, without the steroids of course. However, with stardom and fame comes challenges, and in Hamilton’s case it was drug addiction, which destroyed his career. In 2007, the Chicago Cubs, who were picking for the Cincinnati Reds in the Rule 5 draft, selected Hamilton. In his first at bat since recovering from drug addiction, with the Reds Hamilton received the biggest standing ovation you can imagine. Hamilton finished the 2007 season with the Reds with a batting average of .292 in 298 plate appearances. In the offseason of 2007, Hamilton was traded to the Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera. In the time Hamilton was a Ranger, he was easily moving into my top five Rangers of all time alongside Nolan Ryan, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Michael Young, and Kenny Rodgers. Lately though, Josh has made a few decisions and comments that are causing me to reconsider this list. These decisions and comments are getting mixed reviews from fans, bloggers, beat reporters and professionals alike. When we go back and think of Josh some of you are going to remember him for his blunders now. We cannot forget how good he actually was to us. He did what most of us would do and took the payday, and why wouldn’t he?
Now let’s think about what Josh Hamilton did here in Texas. Josh struck out 19 times in the last few weeks of September in 2012 while going 10 for 43 with no homers or walks (bleacherreport.com). What about Josh’s July 2012 batting average? .177? (baseball-reference.com). Or, what about on game 162 of the 2012 season, it is Rangers vs. A’s. It was a day game in Oakland at the O.co Coliseum and the A’s are tied for the division with the Rangers for the lead in the AL West. The winner of the game gets an automatic spot in the playoffs this season. The Rangers are up 5-1 going into the 4th inning. With 2 outs and Holland throws a breaking ball high and inside to Cespedes (who had been going on a tear and leading the A’s to victory on many occasions prior to this game) and pops up a very routine ball to Hamilton who is running up to make the routine catch. Hamilton overruns the ball and the ball falls to the ground allowing Coco Crisp and Stephen Drew to score tying up the game. The A’s would go on and win the game and eventually the division and losing the ALDS to the Tigers 3-2.
Even after all of Josh’s off the field antics like his not one, but two relapses in his time with the Rangers, people were still rallying behind him and wishing him the best in his recovery from addiction. The Rangers even tried to help him with his off the field behavior by hiring him a personal “accountability partner”. Most are going to have terrible memories of Josh Hamilton with his actions and comments as of late. Kelly Morris basically remembers Josh being a “quitter”, as she should. It really seems that in the last two months that Josh was playing in 2012, he just “quit”. He was a leader on this team and when he slumped it seemed as if the team was slumping. Franki Stokes remembers Josh for that time she was walking across the street of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Josh almost hit her in his truck while he was leaving after a game.
Now of all people to jump to conclusions about a person after an event like this I am first in line. I have no problem shunning someone like this, but let us not forget what Josh did well for us. Now I know this is speculation, but I think it is safe to say that had we not had Josh in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers may not have been able to make it as far as they did in the postseason those seasons. When I emailed Chuck Morgan, Texas Rangers’ public address announcer at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, about Josh he spoke very well of him. I asked, “How will you remember Josh?” He simply wrote back, “The big home runs, his first walk off homer, home runs into the Upper Home Run Porch, the home run in Game 6.” I know I personally remember watching many of those homers and I will never forget them. They gave us all a great feeling. I asked Emily Jones, TV reporter and anchor for FSSW, the same question and she wrote back that she would remember “Josh as one of the most talented athletes (she) has ever covered. So simple, yet extremely complex.” I could not agree with her more. She went on to say that, “I believe his intentions are good, but he didn’t always do the best job communicating them”, as he would show us with his comments about Dallas “not being a baseball town”. Is he not right though?
Let’s take a quick step back and really look at this situation. When you ask anyone outside of Dallas, and Texas for that matter, what they think of Dallas’ sports, the first thing that would come to their mind is the Dallas Cowboys. Why wouldn’t it be? They have five Super Bowl titles, while the Rangers are struggling to get their first World Series title. It’s not that Dallas is “not a baseball town”; it’s more that we are a sports town. We have all the major sports here in Dallas. We are not like the Cubs in Chicago or the Red Sox in Boston or even the Yankees in New York. The Rangers just don’t have the history that those franchises do. The Rangers are still a relatively young franchise when you look at it. Last year, the Rangers celebrated their 40th anniversary in Texas while the Red Sox just celebrated Fenway’s 100th birthday in 2012. It’s really not that Dallas isn’t a baseball town as much as it is Texas in general being a football state. It has been that way for years and will more than likely stay that way for years to come.
Josh saying that Dallas isn’t a “baseball town” only really fuels the rivalry between Texas and Los Angeles according to Bob Sturm, from local radio station 1310 The Ticket, who I really agree with. “Texas has never really had a rival team until the Angles signed CJ [Wilson] from us, now the signing of Josh only fuels it”, said BJ Sterling, local Rangers fan.
With all the negative talk about how Josh will be remembered here in Texas, I think it is time to talk about all the good memories we will have of Josh. I know personally I will remember Josh hitting 28 homers in the first round of the 2008 Home Run Derby, before losing to Justin Morneau who admitted that he didn’t “win” the derby, in New York at the old Yankee stadium which was the last year Old Yankee stadium was opened before the new stadium opened for the 2009 season. Chuck Morgan said he will also remember Josh for the way that he ran by saying, “I was lucky enough to grow up in the 1960s, didn’t see it live, but watched Mickey Mantle on television. Watching Josh going from first to third for a triple reminded of how Mantle ran.”
As mentioned above I know a majority of us will absolutely remember the Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Top of the 10th, after the missed catch by Nelson Cruz that shall never be mentioned again and for good reason, Ian Kinsler pops up for out number 1, BIG surprise there. Elvis Andrus then singles to center field. Now it is 1 out and a man on 1st. Josh Hamilton, who is no rookie when it comes to clutch big hit situations, is now up to bat. Elvis takes a big lead at 1st to tease Jason Motte to throw him back to the bag. Motte throws it back and keeps Elvis on 1st. Motte stares down Elvis again like he is daring him to take 2nd base, just daring him. Motte looks back up and looks at Josh, he then looks at Yadier Molina, who is catching for Motte. Motte shakes off the first sign, nods and says yes to the second one. Motte reaches back and throws the breaking ball low and inside. Josh knows that this is the pitch he wanted so he takes a swing. Josh knew that as soon as he swung that the ball had no chance at staying in the park. Josh had hit a 2 run homer to put the Rangers up by 2. The Rangers would go on to lose that game but it was not at the hands of Josh.
Josh has always been one of the better clutch situation playmakers I have ever seen. Josh has never had any problem getting dirty and making key plays. He had always been one to throw himself into a wall if it was needed to make an out. His determination is what the Angels saw in him, and what I had seen in him for years now. I know that the Rangers are one to spend the big bucks on signing key free agents, but there comes a time in every players career where their services are no longer needed by a team, and that is what happened here. Josh was a great player for the Rangers and that should never go unnoticed ever. Josh did what he had to do for his family and what was right for him. He did what most anyone would do. He took the money. Not just any money but BIG money. Now there was no official offer announced by the Rangers that they offered to Josh but we knew what they wanted to offer him. Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com wrote on November 11, 2012 that “The maximum length the Texas Rangers are willing to re-sign free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton for is three years, making the likelihood the 2010 American League MVP will return to the team slim, USA Today Sports has reported, citing a high-ranking team official. The Rangers made a qualifying offer for Hamilton last week (November 7, 2011) at slightly below the $13.75 million that he received in 2012, a deal he declined Friday (November 9, 2011).” So, even if the Rangers offer him $17 million a year for 3 years that would bring his grand total contract to $51 million. Now his contract with the Angels is for 5 years at $25 million a year bringing his total contract with the Angels to a whopping $125 million dollars. I should remind you that this isn’t a NFL contract where the $125 million isn’t all guaranteed money; there are certain stipulations for football players to get the full amount of their contract. MLB contracts are all guaranteed money. So if my math is correct, that is 74 million dollars he would have turned down. Now would you leave 74 million dollars on the table? I didn’t really think so. For an extra 74 million dollars you can throw any sort of team loyalty out the window. Bob Sturm agrees by saying, “I imagine that any sort of discomfort or awkwardness of going to a rival melts pretty quick. There is a point where the money becomes too good to let any awkwardness come from it.” Oh, shall I mention that the window he is looking at now is a beachfront window in Anaheim somewhere? It is a dream job to get paid big bucks to go play a sport that you love and live on a beach. You cannot really ask for much more.
Naturally, all of our first reactions are to hate this man. Let’s just remember that he was an amazing Ranger while he was here and it should not be overlooked. It was his decision to leave what is an already great team with young up and comers. This year is the year of the Rangers and honestly they are a better team without him. His numbers may be difficult to make up but with players like Mitch Moreland and Leonys Martin getting more playing time and the signings of AJ Pierzynski and Lance Berkman, this team can go just as far as they did with Hamilton. Josh is now playing in a pitchers’ park with deeper fences. His homerun numbers will go down and he will see pitchers that he has always played with (Yu and Holland) and know how to pitch to him. Though he is a great player, he will struggle to find it while he is playing with the Angels. Matter of fact he is already starting to show it. His batting average is a mere .222 and he has 23 strike outs while only having 2 homers in the season (numbers are current as of April 23, 2013). These are not the numbers you would expect out of a player you are paying 125 million dollars for. He is now the Angels’ problem. But Texas, we have got to stay classy. Remember what Josh has done for Texas and all the spectacular plays he made while he was in Arlington. It will be missed; but good luck Hamilton, except when you are playing the Rangers.
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed.