Josh Hamilton Lives Up to Low Expectations

February 19th, 2013

I love baseball.

My favorite team growing up and to this day is the Texas Rangers.  For most of my life, being a Rangers fan has been a thankless almost masochistic form of fandom.  Historically, the Rangers would either be completely awful or they would play with your emotions by being very good right up to the All Star break after which they would completely collapse until seasons end.

All of that never stopped me from going to the games even when those games were played at the old Arlington Stadium, truly the armpit of MLB baseball parks at the time, while suffering through 100 degree heat, even in late September no less.

Sure, I was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan as well.  Back when I was younger, that was actually a very rewarding experience.  Now it feels like being a Rangers fan all over again.

Yet, while the Cowboys sunk to mediocrity, the Rangers steadily and some would say improbably rose literally from the cellar to become a powerhouse in the American League West. They even appeared in consecutive World Series.

Much of that success is thanks to the talents of Josh Hamilton. As one of my friends who once worked for the Rangers describes him, Hamilton is a “halo” player.  He possesses truly God given talents that put him above even very good baseball players.

That doesn’t mean all Rangers fans owe unquestioning loyalty to Hamilton.  When they acquired him, he was making his way back to the big leagues after being suspended for drug abuse.  Fortunately for him, he’d cleaned himself up and found peace in religion.  It was a nice redemption story, but like many such stories, it wasn’t without its bumps and challenges.  In order to help him stay clean and sober, the Rangers hired an accountability partner to help him.  Various Rangers teammates like C.J. Wilson and Ian Kinsler also stepped in to keep him on track.

Still, being human, Hamilton would occasionally stumble.  Twice that the public knows about, he backslid a bit.  He also didn’t always prove to be the most reliable and solid baseball player either.

Hamilton was brittle.  Every season he missed games hurt.  When he wasn’t hurt, he’d miss games complaining of ailments you can’t find with a Google search.  Sometimes he’d even play, and play poorly, because of crazy never before heard of things.  Last season, for example, he played some of his worst baseball because he was trying to give up chewing tobacco.  It was every mother’s dream when he announced to the world that giving up this unhealthy habit accounted for his horrible performance.

One of the “remedies” he tried as he tried to kick that habit was chewing on a tea tree oil toothpick.  All last season, I’d see him up to bat with that toothpick hanging out of his mouth.  Part of the drama in his at bats was waiting to see if he’d choke on it.

At the end of last season, he totally collapsed.  He was horrible at the plate but worst of all, he clearly didn’t care.  In the critical game to decide the division winner against the Oakland A’s, Hamilton jogged for a ball in the outfield and dropped it.  To the world he was clearly saying, “I’m checked out of here.  I don’t care anymore.”

That’s all fine, but then when the fans who stood by him for years through the good (which was great) and the bad (which bordered on absolutely ridiculous) booed him, I at least knew where they were coming from.

Last season, I personally watched nearly all the Rangers games.  Even my oldest son, also a fan, thought I was nuts.

“Mom, it doesn’t really matter until September anyway, so why are you doing this?” he’d ask me.

Why?  Because I was a fan, that’s why.

So when big mouth and no brains Josh Hamilton announced in an interview that Dallas isn’t “a true baseball town” I was ticked.

Since signing with the Rangers’ division rivals, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (now there’s a “baseball town”), Hamilton appears bent to alienate the entire city of Dallas every chance he gets.  He reminds me of the wife who leaves her husband and then won’t quit sending him hate mail.

Get over it, Josh.  We’ve moved on and gotten over you.

Oh, and one last thing because I’m sure I won’t make your return to Arlington as an Angel.