Scooping the Rangers: Josh Hamilton takes swing at former team

Josh Hamilton signing autographs
While Texas Rangers fans are fuming, Josh Hamilton is making a new friends with Angels fans. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Every time a television focuses in his direction and a microphone is put in front of his face, there’s one thing you know for sure: Josh Hamilton is going to say what he wants, when he wants.

The newest member of the Los Angeles Angels sat down with Gina Miller of CBS 11 over the weekend and was asked about how the 2012 season ended with the Texas Rangers. While Josh admitted things could have gone better for the team, his focus quickly turned to the fan base itself. And that’s where things took on a life of its own.

“There are true baseball fans in Texas, but it’s not a true baseball town,” Hamilton told Miller. Before he could take the comments back or clarify their meaning, he decided to take it one step further. “They’re supportive, but they also got a little spoiled at the same time pretty quickly.”

Needless to say, the baseball fan base in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area grabbed his comments and ran with them from the moment they were made public. It created an outcry usually reserved for Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo wearing his hat backwards or spending a day on the golf course.

But, before we take Josh out behind the woodshed for his comments, let’s admit that what he said wasn’t exactly inaccurate, and he certainly wasn’t the first one to ever say it.

Dallas/Ft. Worth is not a baseball town. Period. CBS Radio’s Richie Whitt said as much almost exactly a year ago, “I’m hearing Rangers fans screaming that this is now a baseball town. Really? Wake me up when you have a championship ring and 12 straight playoff berths.” Where was the emotion from Rangers fans then? Why was this opinion not the talk of every radio and television station in town? Why were these comments not all over social media?

There is no doubt things have changed over the last three to four years because the Cowboys are no longer the only show in town. However, it won’t ever stop every media outlet in the DFW area from reiterating that this is, and will always be, a football town.

I will be the first to say I believe the Texas Rangers deserve more attention than the mediocre football team that plays down the street from Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.

Let’s talk about the real reason this is even a story at all. Let’s talk about why these fans are really upset about these particular comments.

It’s Josh Hamilton who said them. It’s Josh Hamilton who signed with a division rival. Had he signed with a team like the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Washington Nationals or another team not in the AL West division, these comments wouldn’t be taken nearly the way they are now.

When the 2012 season ended, you couldn’t find a single fan anywhere who wanted Josh back with the Texas Rangers. Especially not for the kind of money he was asking for. They said he wasn’t worth the headache, and he wasn’t worth the clubhouse drama.

But, the moment he signed with the Angels, that opinion changed from “he’s not worth it” to “he’s disloyal.”

People wanted Josh to sign with a team and just not say anything anymore. Just stay quiet and not say anything other than, “I want to thank the fans of the Texas Rangers.” Even if he had done that, there would have been those who would have called that “thank you” “disingenuous.”

Fans and media alike will talk about how Hamilton was forgiven time and time again. They’ll reference the press conference that took place this time last year after a relapse with alcohol, and they’ll talk about how Hamilton will make comments and then hide behind his faith.

They should know by now, after five years with the team, Hamilton says what he wants to say when he wants to say it. He’s not going to tell you what you want to hear and he’s certainly not going to give you the politically correct quote just because you’re looking for it.

That’s Josh.

Remember the days of Manny Ramirez in Boston? He wasn’t politically correct, and he didn’t always give it 100% every time he took the field. But they excused it with, “it’s just Manny being Manny.” As long as he hit the big home run when the Red Sox needed it, and as long as they were winning, they were going to put up with it.

Had the Texas Rangers made it back to the World Series — even after Hamilton dropped that fly ball in Oakland and his two-month slump in the middle of the season and his two-week slump down the stretch — these fans would have forgotten all about it. As long as he performed on the biggest stage, like the 10th inning home run Hamilton hit in game six of the 2011 World Series, they would all say, “that’s just Josh being Josh.”

This fan base, after two straight trips to the World Series, expects more from the Texas Rangers as an organization as well as from each player who wears the uniform. Josh may think they’re “spoiled,” but what he sees as spoiled the rest of the fan base sees as the expectation bar being set at a level it’s never been set in the team’s history.

Josh Hamilton may have done the Texas Rangers a favor with his comments, something the organization may be quietly, but not out loud mind you, thanking him for.

His shot at the Rangers fan base has almost guaranteed a series sell out at Rangers Ballpark when the Los Angeles Angels come calling.

These fans used to have fun booing former Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson. Now they have a brand new target.

Let the games begin.

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