Josh Hamilton just finished his fifth season with the Texas Rangers. Hamilton batted .285, hit 43 home runs and had 128 RBIs. Over the course of his six year career, Hamilton has averaged 35 home runs and 122 RBI per year while hitting .304. He is a five-time All-Star and two years removed from winning the MVP Award in the American League.
What once seemed like the perfect marriage of player and team seems broken and the differences may be irreconcilable. Hamilton is a free-agent and signing him to a long-term deal is not without risk.
The two sides agreed earlier this year to hold off on contract negotiations until after the season was done. Now the Rangers seemed to be posturing for his departure and announced that they won’t be making any offers before the slugger gets a chance to test the market. In other words, we think we should date other people and you should too.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the team agreed with Hamilton’s representatives. “If you’ve gone this far, you’re going to test the market,” Daniels said. “The realities are when a guy goes out and tests the market and it’s this close, you’re not going to pre-empt it. I think he’s going to go out and test the market and see what’s out there and get back to us.
Hamilton did not finish 2012 the way you want to finish the season in your walk year. Had the season ended in July, Hamilton would likely be receiving one of the largest contracts that baseball has ever seen. While he finished 2012 with a .285 average, with 43 homers and 128 RBIs, in the second half, his numbers were .259, 16 and 53. Hamilton said in August that he felt his trying to quit chewing tobacco was partly responsible for his second-half slump, something that Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan has seen fit to comment on.
“His timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldn’t have been worse,” Ryan told Dallas radio program “Galloway and Company.” “You would’ve liked to have thought that if he was going to do that that he would’ve done it in the off-season or waited until this off-season to do it. So the drastic effect that it had on him and the year that he was having up to that point in time that he did quit, you’d have liked that he would’ve taken a different approach to that. So those issues caused unrest, and it’s unfortunate that it happened and the timing was such as it was.”
When asked if he thought Hamilton with caring down the stretch Ryan replied, “You know, that’s really a tough term to say somebody quit. He had an issue, he was under a magnifying glass and things didn’t go well…. I have no reason to think he quit. It didn’t go well. It didn’t look good and only Josh knows what was in his heart and what was in his mind.
Hamilton’s well-publicized issue with drug and alcohol abuse is well documented and the Rangers to their credit have been very supportive of Hamilton in the recovery process. That support is waning as is the desire to sign Hamilton to a multi-year deal.
Hamilton is an addict and always will be. He is in recovery and always will be. Hamilton is also a spiritual man at war with his flesh on a daily basis. The threat of relapse never goes away and on balance the Rangers have been very fortunate in that regard. It would seem that the Rangers are not interested in playing that hand again.
There are teams with the resources to pay Hamilton whenever he wants. According to Jon Heyman, sportswriter for CBS Sports, the Rangers aren’t willing to offer more than four years, and some other desperate team will undoubtedly exceed that. It’s possible that Hamilton could return to the Rangers having said he would give the Rangers the right to match any offer, but ultimately he would choose his next team solely on the word he receives from God.
Hamilton was booed in his last game at at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to which he replied, “To the fans, it’s been a good ride,” Hamilton said. “No matter if you send me off with boos or not, I still love you.”
At this point it would appear both sides are trying to let the other down easy, but the situation is not likely to have a happy ending.