Josh Hamilton: Overcoming the Demons or Reliving his Past? The Future of the Rangers Free Agent Superstar

Tuesday October 9th, 2012

Robert Whitmer:  We talked in a previous article about the demons that we carry and how they can affect us.  We all have things that we must overcome in order for us to progress and become the person that we were meant to be.  For some it is easier to overcome these demons, but for others it can take longer; much longer. What is it about a person that takes one less time to overcome them and others longer?  Is it the self-discipline that one has?  What about distractions that come up while trying to work on their issues?  We all know that Josh Hamilton has had some issues in the past and that he says it is a fight every day of his life to not go back to the behaviors that got him in trouble in the first place.  Before I go much further in this article, let me be very clear about one thing.  I have never had any type of issue with any type of addiction to any drugs, alcohol or tobacco.  I don’t know how it affects people on a daily basis.  What I do know is that it is a serious affliction.  One thing I do know is that through it all, Josh Hamilton is a strong individual.

Normally when you write something like this you start at the beginning and you work your way to the present day, then project the future.  This will not be one of those.  I am going to start at the present and work my way to the beginning to see how far the man has come.  As of today we are looking at Josh Hamilton the free agent.  When the Rangers failed to advance in the postseason, Hamilton became an unemployed baseball player.  In a rather lackluster free agent class that doesn’t really have a lot of players that are game changers, the speculation has not been about who Josh Hamilton will sign with- but rather how much he will sign for.  Let’s start by looking at the season that the guy had.  Out of the 12 position players that made the most money in the majors this year, Hamilton had a better season than all of them except for a guy named Miguel Cabrera, who won some award that hadn’t been won in 47 years named the triple crown.  Hamilton made $13 million this year.  The Rangers paid him $302,325.58 per home run that he hit (43).  They paid him $105,691.06 per RBI that he drove in this year (128).  When you are looking at how much you pay a player, you have to look at consistency to make somewhat sure that they are going to be worth the money.

This past week has been a trying one for Mr. Hamilton.  The Texas Rangers ended up in the one game playoff for the wild card spot after losing the division race on the last day of the season.  In the last game of the season which determined if it would be the Rangers or the Athletics that would play for the Wild Card, Hamilton showed a lack of urgency in the field and too much urgency at the plate.  He booted a play that allowed the A’s inning to continue and eventually take the lead.  It was a routine fly ball that tipped off the top of his glove after a less that urgent charge on the ball that left Hamilton having to make up ground at the end in order to make the catch.  After the ball hit off his glove and continued to roll, Hamilton went after it as though the runners would understand that it was a mistake and not take advantage of it.  Not only did he commit the error that cost his team the game, but he also was impatient at the plate going 1-5 with 3 strikeouts.  In the Wild Card game against the Orioles, Hamilton looked like he was already on the golf course with his putter because he sure wasn’t at the plate with his bat.  He went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts. I don’t know what was going through his head, but maybe he didn’t understand the concept of what the phrase “one game playoff” means.  To me it looked like he was playing like there was a tomorrow. But when you are in a one game playoff in a contract year, there is no tomorrow.

Josh Hamilton committing the error that lost the Rangers the game and the AL West.

You know how they always say that hindsight is 20/20?  They say that because it’s true.  If you look at the past of any situation you can see why the result happened the way that it did.  In the months of September/October, if you look at his numbers, you could see the last two games of the Rangers season happening the way they did for Hamilton.  The last month of the season he only hit .245 at the plate with 7 home runs but only 16 RBIs.  Now I understand that most players would kill for any month like that but for Hamilton, those numbers were underwhelming.  His numbers had been fluctuating all year but there was a gradual decline as the end of the season came.  General Managers don’t like to see that.

Let’s talk about June, July, and August.  Hamilton has a lot of things that he has to overcome.  Most of the time players choose the offseason to fix their issues. But for some reason, Hamilton picked the months of June and July to quit chewing tobacco.  Let’s look at what could be conceived as the positive side of things here.  At least he had the faith in his teammates not to screw the season up too bad while he decided to quit chewing.  In those months, he hit .223 with 4 home runs and 16 RBIs (June) and a woeful .177 with 4 homers and 11 RBIs (July).  It’s a good thing that the season isn’t only two months long, because he made a small resurgence in the month of August going for .310 average, 7 home runs, and 28 RBIs while hitting an impressive .943 OPS.  General Managers like to see that players can come back from rough months to have good months.  General Managers don’t like to see that teams can stay on the same pace without their star.  It almost makes them think if the player was really as essential to the team as they first thought.

General Managers love to see exactly what Josh Hamilton showed the Texas Rangers in the months of March, April, and May.  He started the season on such a pace that made him look like he was a man amongst boys.  Pitchers couldn’t give him a pitch that didn’t end up getting smoked for either a home run or at least an RBI.  In March and April, Hamilton hit .395 with 9 home runs and 25 RBIs with an obscene 1.182 OPS.  Billy Beane must have been salivating at this point.  Hamilton was the talk of baseball and his upcoming free agency was the topic. The local radio people were talking millions and millions of dollars for him.  If that wasn’t enough, he decided to go on a bigger tear in May.  He continued to kill the ball hitting .344 with 12 home runs, 32 RBIs and an even higher 1.187 OPS.  This definitely got the Rangers attention and they were talking extension.  For one reason or another, a deal never got done and people started speculating.  According to “official sources,” they decided to put off talks till after the All-Star break.  General Managers like the numbers that Hamilton put up.  They like them a lot.

I sure hope, for Hamilton’s sake, that the team was the one that put off the contract negotiations.  If it was Hamilton, then he picked a crappy time to stop chewing tobacco.  If it was Hamilton, he picked a really crappy time to decide that he was going to mentally be on the golf course instead of having his head in the game and helping his team make back to back to back World Series appearances.  Let’s take a look at how much money Josh Hamilton cost himself.  Had he and the Rangers come to an agreement when they were initially talking about one in May, he would have been looking at Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols‘ numbers.  He could have been a $100 million dollar man.  Even through the down months of June and July, he could have gotten a contract of that magnitude because he had justification for why his numbers were slumping.  All the way through to the last two games of the season, he would have gotten a seven to nine-year contract at about $15-20 million a year.

Seeing Hamilton mentally check out is not something that General Managers like to see.  They are the ones that negotiate the contracts and sign the players.  They are the ones that you have to impress to make your paycheck happen.  The decline at the end of the season and more specifically the last two games cost him money.  Instead of the big money contract, I see him getting a similar contract to the one he just finished (2 year, $24 million), maybe a little more.  When you take on Josh Hamilton, you take on his emotional baggage too.  You take on the risk of him regressing and succumbing to his drug and alcohol addiction again. Remember, one more strike and he is done with baseball for life.  You take on the risk of having your star player collapsing at the end of the year.  Is that the type of person that you can see paying the big money to?  I don’t think so.  Hamilton is one of those players that have a big risk/reward attached to him.  The ideal role for Hamilton is for him to not be in the spotlight as the star player.  He would be an absolute killer, like he was at Texas, with protection around him in the lineup.  I honestly have no idea where he is going to land, but I could see him fitting in with a team like the Pirates and playing second fiddle to Andrew McCutchen with a contract of about 5 years at around the $16 million mark. But we he go to a team like the Pirates? And will they spend the money?

Yes, those demons that we must fight are hard.  Even we overcome them, they can come back and rear their ugly head at the most inopportune times in our lives.  This is the problem that faces Josh Hamilton.  Is it possible that he has beaten so much that it is a constant worry on his mind and it inhibits him from reaching his full potential as a baseball player?  I believe that he has yet to reach his ceiling as a player.  He can be a 45 homer 150 RBIs guy year-in and year-out.  That’s the kind of player he is and was when he was drafted 1st overall by the Rays in 1999.  The constant reminder of where he has been and where he could end up again will keep him from getting to where his talent could take him. We, as fans, will have missed out on a once in a lifetime player.

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

***Today’s feature was prepared by Robert Whitmer, MLB reports Baseball Writer. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Robert on Twitter (@rwhitmer)***

 

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Posted on October 9, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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