I wanted to defend someone I thought I understood. To me, Josh Hamilton was just misunderstood by those who didn’t understand how strong his faith was. Some even accused him of hiding behind that faith when it suited him.
While I will never question that faith, I will question his view of the events as the offseason unfolded. Even as spring training got underway last season, Hamilton was asked by NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs if he “owed the Rangers” for their continued support, even during his relapses.
His response? “I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers.”
That much became clear when Josh decided he was done with the Texas Rangers, deciding instead to move on to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to the tune of a five-year $125 million deal.
Congratulations Josh. You signed with the team, and for the money, you wanted. However, there’s one glaring problem.
Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik was interviewed by a Seattle radio station before he flew home to Pittsburgh for the holidays and was specificially asked about the negotiations with Hamilton. “We were very involved … after our meeting [with Josh Hamilton] in Nashville it became very clear to me this was something we would have been able to do.”
So, what kind of offer would make Zduriencik think they were big players in the race for one of the top free agents this offseason?
“We went at him full bore and we put a very nice offer on the table,” Zduriencik told the Mitch in the Morning radio show. “One that, if he had accepted it, I think everyone in this community and everyone in the baseball world would have said, ‘this is a good deal for him and for the Mariners’.”
Just those quotes alone would make you think the Mariners were very much in the hunt. In fact, it might make you think they were the front-runners to land the All-Star outfielder.
But, in the words of the great Lee Corso, “not so fast my friend.”
In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show Friday, when asked if Seattle had make a big push for him, Hamilton responded, “no, not really.” Why would he say that if what Zduriencik said was true? If a “substantial offer” was made, and if Seattle really did go “full bore,” wouldn’t that have been enough for Josh to realize they were serious about signing him?
Outside of baseball, I’m usually quick to jump to Josh’s defense. With the kind of struggles he’s gone through, as well as the relapses while with the Rangers, I know how much he turns to his family and his faith to pull him through.
However, when it comes to baseball, I draw a line in the sand and watch to see how close one player will go before crossing it.
He questioned being booed by the Ranger fan base, telling Patrick, “you expect that in towns that eat, sleep, breathe baseball like Chicago, Boston and New York.”
So, because Texas is a football town, he didn’t expect fans to care about the performance of one of the team’s best players? He didn’t expect they would be so disapproving of what seemed to be a lack of effort night in and night out?
The Josh Hamilton era in Texas is over, that much is for sure. But every time he’s asked about how things ended with Texas, and no matter how many times he says being booed didn’t bother him, there seems to be at least a little animosity. Or maybe a lot more than a little.
Don’t think this is over because it’s not; not by a long shot. With Hamilton now a member of the Angels, the main division rival of the Texas Rangers, the booing from the fans, the questions from the media and the sarcastic responses from Josh himself are far from over.
He was very clear about “owing the Rangers” and followed through by signing with their rival. He also made it clear Ranger fans expected too much of him.
What Josh didn’t mention is the way those same fans rallied around him after his relapse and were quick to support him after a tragic accident accident at the ballpark during a game. Did he leave out those details for a reason or just use being booed as an excuse for going somewhere else?
Hamilton is who he is and there’s no changing that. He’s one of the more talented baseball players in the game today, and he makes the Los Angeles Angels an almost automatic World Series favorite. The Angels had the offense last season but still failed to make the playoffs.
Will history repeat itself, or will Ranger fans watch in disgust as Hamilton celebrates a World Series title with a team that isn’t the Texas Rangers?
Maybe the best way to respond to him from now on is not to respond at all. Not boo, not jeer, not yell at, just let him go about his business. Players, especially opposing ones, feed off that kind of energy and use it as bulletin-board material, a chip on their shoulder, if you will.
Fans are upset and they have every right to be. The season could have had a very different ending had Hamilton decided to be interested in the season instead of taking two months and two weeks, off. But, even Josh admits that you won’t always understand him.
“Guys, it’s me, it’s Josh. It’s gonna be something weird.”
Boston has been through Manny Ramirez and “it’s just Manny being Manny.” San Francisco has been through Barry Bonds and the steroid accusations. The Texas Rangers will close the book on Hamilton and the weirdness that surrounded him. Maybe things will get better, but maybe they won’t.
They say time heals all wounds. Beating a rival, with a former Ranger on its roster, heals things a lot faster.