Texas Rangers 3B coach Dave Anderson should not be vilified for encouraging AL MVP Josh Hamilton to dash home in yesterday’s game against the Tigers. Coaches are there to guide players, not dictate their actions.
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Hamilton, who fractured his right arm after a clumsy head-first dive, commented after the game “it was just a stupid play” and that he was doing what his coach told him. Huh? Since when are baseball players robots? And I’m sure Anderson wasn’t screaming “dive hard onto your right arm to avoid the tag!” And, folks, it wasn’t a slide, it was a launch that left Hamilton landing awkwardly and onto the DL for six-to-eight weeks.
Hamilton was out at the plate after tagging up on foul ball caught near the Tigers dugout in the top of the first inning. Anderson saw that catcher Victor Martinez had vacated home in an attempt to chase the ball, which was caught by 3B Brandon Inge. Detroit pitcher Brad Penny should have covered home but didn’t, which is why Anderson encouraged Hamilton to go. I watched the replay several times, and you can see Anderson notice the plate isn’t covered, so there was definitely an opportunity presented. Hamilton’s body language appears to show indecision, but he went regardless. He didn’t have to, he chose to. I’ve seen numerous plays in my years of watching baseball when players ignored the advice of their coaches simply because they thought differently. And he definitely didn’t have to dive head first. To insinuate that his injury is the coach’s fault is irresponsible. It was an aggressive play by an aggressive team, but an extremely poor choice on Hamilton’s part to lunge head first.
What I find ridiculous about the post-game analysis is the coddling of players by former players. The talking heads were having a field day last night – some praised the aggressive attempt and others thought it asinine to send your best player charging home because it was so early in the game. Which begs the question: Do you not play aggressive until the end or when the game is on the line? The Rangers wound up losing by one run, so if Hamilton scored, it would have made a difference. It’s a microcosm of a baseball season; teams that play to win during every at bat of every game have a better chance of coming out on top vs. teams that wait until the games are meaningful.
If Hamilton scores on the bang-bang play, he gets praised for being aggressive, not Anderson. It’s either Hamilton the hero or Anderson the goat. I hang this one on Hamilton. Injuries are part of the game, and you suffer the consequences when you make ill-advised slides. Hamilton now has two-months to visualize the slide he should have made.