Josh Hamilton departure is a long-term plus for Texas Rangers
As a Texas Rangers enthusiast, I should be upset with Josh Hamilton. After all, he committed treason in the offseason by signing an exorbitant contract with a hated adversary and stated in an interview last week that Dallas/Ft. Worth is not a true baseball area. However, I have chosen largely to ignore Josh Hamilton and treat him with a high amount of indifference because I believe the Rangers will be better off in the long term without his services. This article is my swan song in regards to Josh Hamilton.
First of all, I do agree with Hamilton that Dallas/Ft. Worth is not what one would consider a true “baseball town.” The metroplex will forever be a football-addicted area, obsessed over high school, college and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.
The television ratings prove the Cowboys will always be king in D/FW. For example, the Texas Rangers were in the midst of an extended road trip last August. The team began a pivotal four-game series in the Bronx against the New York Yankees on a Monday night. The Dallas Cowboys happened to open their preseason on Monday Night Football against the Oakland Raiders the same evening. Despite the fact the Rangers were in first place and playing baseball’s marquee franchise, the Cowboys exhilarating 3-0 win over Oakland had higher television ratings.
The Dallas Cowboys could finish 0-16 for 10 consecutive seasons and still have a stranglehold over D/FW. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can continue to mismanage and run the team into obscurity, but football-addicted fans in the metroplex will still care. The team will always garner interest, sell merchandise and perpetually sell out the monstrosity next door to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington 10 games per season.
Besides being a football town, Dallas/Ft. Worth is also what former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current FOX broadcaster Troy Aikman described as a “winner’s town.”
The Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999, advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2000 before losing to New Jersey and appeared in the playoffs for many seasons after. The fans in Dallas/Ft. Worth had hockey fever that even more cowbell could not have cured. However, the last few seasons the Stars began to play poorly and have not appeared in the playoffs this decade. The crowds shrunk and so did fan interest.
The Dallas Mavericks have played fantastic basketball since owner Mark Cuban bought the team in 2000, making the playoffs every season since 2001. After several humiliating playoff failures, the Mavericks finally won the NBA Finals in 2011, winning the franchise’s first NBA championship.
Before Cuban bough the Mavericks, the franchise was in disarray. The team was arguably the worst professional sports franchise in the ’90s. Reunion Arena was regularly empty, a very different scene from when the Mavs were playing excellent basketball in the 1980s, taking the Los Angeles Lakers all the way to a seventh game in the 1988 Western Conference Finals thanks to the raucous Reunion Rowdies.
There are some devout Rangers fans, but support has not always been at the high level it is now. Before the Rangers won three AL West titles in four seasons in the late ’90s, fans were hopeful Texas would play well enough to keep them intrigued until Cowboys training camp began in late July. There was a popular phrase: “There are two sports in Texas, football and spring football.”
Like the Stars and Mavericks, the Rangers fan base swells when the team wins. Attendance was high in the late ’90s, and so was enthusiasm. Then, when the Rangers began a face-plant into irrelevance in the early 2000s, due largely to poor management and ownership, attendance and intrigue dropped.
Due to Josh Hamilton’s comments about Dallas/Ft. Worth not being a true baseball town, a movement is growing among Rangers fans to ignore Hamilton when he is announced before his first at-bat on Friday April 5 when the Angels make their first appearance in Arlington. A Twitter account, @Silence4Josh, was created to help spread the word. In a way, I feel shunning Hamilton is giving him more attention than booing him. However, there is no possible way all the fans in the ballpark will stay silent anyway.
@Silence4Josh is selling t-shirts, which proclaim the area has been a baseball town since 1972, the year the Rangers moved to Arlington from Washington, D.C. If one believes the claim to be factual, check the Rangers attendance numbers while the team called the dilapidated Arlington Stadium home. If you need proof, check the video of former Angels pitcher Mike Witt’s perfect game on September 30, 1984 against the Rangers in Arlington. Look at the number of fans in the stands when the game ended.
While the Rangers have had trouble with attendance during miserable years, so have many other baseball teams. The fact Dallas/Ft. Worth is not a true baseball town, or has not been in the past, is not something worth getting agitated over because fans in most cities will not pay to see a perennial loser, including the team Hamilton just signed with.
SkyDome used to have boisterous crowds when the Toronto Blue Jays were winning World Series in 1992 and 1993. However, attendance and team support has dwindled since the club has failed to make the postseason in the last 20 years. The same thing could be said of New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore when those teams have struggled. Fans are not going to pay hard-earned money to watch a loser.
My point is while Dallas/Ft. Worth has not always been a baseball town, neither have the majority of cities, excluding St. Louis. Becoming indignant with Hamilton and trying to prove to him D/FW is a true baseball town actually proves nothing. Hamilton has complemented the fans here in the past, and the truth is D/FW is a decent baseball town who will support a winner, like the vast majority of other cities in Major League Baseball.
The problem I have is Josh Hamilton saying Rangers fans who do not boo him, “get it.” Insulting fan intelligence is a different matter. I appreciate all of the memorable moments Hamilton provided Rangers fans during his five years in Arlington, but he just needs to shut his mouth and move on. By speaking negatively of the Rangers fan base, he is showing immaturity and bitterness about what happened last October when he appeared to have mentally checked out. The poignant thing is Hamilton’s five-year performance with Texas was solid enough to merit a standing ovation from the masses during his first at-bat, but his ignorant final comment in his interview with Gina Miller killed any chance of even a small cheer. Also, he should know his new team’s fan base booed the great Albert Pujols during a game in May last year. So, I guess the Angels fans do not get it either.
I believe the Texas Rangers are better in the long run without Josh Hamilton. Signing a position player over the age of 30 to a $100 million contract is not a prudent move and often proves very foolish. MLB Network’s Clubhouse Confidential ranked the Rangers not re-signing Josh Hamilton as the third best move of the offseason.
While Josh Hamilton delivered potent offensive numbers last season — 43 HRs, 128 RBI, with a line of .285/.354/.577/.930 — he began to display signs of declining. His contact percentage dropped from 74.6% in 2011 to 64.7% last season. Hamilton’s Z-Contact percentage also fell to 77.7% in ’12, down from 83.8% in ’11. Hamilton’s UZR also fell to -12.6, and according to Fangraphs, Hamilton’s speed, range and arm all declined in ’12.
Josh Hamilton might generate gigantic numbers for the Angels in ’13, but he is not worth the $25 million per season the Angels will pay him. While what Josh Hamilton said recently is slightly irritating, Rangers fans need to remember that re-signing him would have been a colossal error, which would have crippled the team’s ability to sign future free agents. Signing with the enemy should be a reason to loathe Josh Hamilton further, but also realize his signing will have an adverse effect on the Angels in the future.
So, I urge fans to treat Josh Hamilton with indifference. Poking fun and teasing him is even more childish than what he said. It’s time to move on and worry about what’s happening with the current Rangers.
For more baseball wisdom, follow me on Twitter @DustinDietz18