Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Welcoming back Josh Hamilton

I used to have a baseball blog for all my Texas Rangers-related ramblings, but with so many other obligations, I didn't have enough time to devote to that space.  I really miss it sometimes, especially when something big happens with the team and I want to write about it somewhere.  So occasionally I may spill those thoughts here.

Speaking of big Rangers news, a few weeks ago, the team acquired Josh Hamilton from the Angels.  This wasn't just a normal signing though.  At least not for the Rangers. Or the Angels.

Not familiar with Josh Hamilton's story?  Let me fill you in as briefly as I can in the form of a timeline.

1999 -- Josh Hamilton is the first overall pick in the MLB draft. He begins powering through the Tampa Bay Rays' minor league system.

2001 -- Josh is injured in an off-season car accident and begins hanging out in tattoo parlors, where his addiction to drug and alcohol begins.

2002 -- The Rays recognize there's something wrong and send Josh to the Betty Ford Clinic.

2003 -- Josh returns to baseball and fails his first drug test.

2004 -- Josh is suspended 30 games for violating MLB's drug policy.  He failed two more tests in the next month, and MLB suspended him for the rest of the season.

2005 -- Josh tries to return to baseball but is arrested for smashing a windshield before the season begins. The Rays put him on the restricted list and he is eventually suspended again for failing another drug test.  Josh moves in with his grandmother, begins working at Silvers Academy, and working out.  He attempts to play independent league baseball but MLB puts a stop to that.

2006 -- Josh is allowed to work out with Rays players. He is playing in games by the end of June.  He's selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Chicago Cubs and promptly traded to the Cincinnati Reds. 

2007 -- Josh makes his MLB debut and received a standing ovation after his pinch hit appearance.  He spent a decent amount of the season on the disabled list.  At the end of the season, he's traded to the Texas Rangers.

2008 -- Josh locks up the starting centerfielder job and quickly becomes a valuable offensive performer. He's also a fan favorite based on his play, his passion for the game, and his faith, which he and his wife, Katie, talk about openly and often. He's selected for the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby, in which he finishes second but puts on a monster show in the meantime.

2009 -- Josh has a strong start but is sidelined in May after running into a wall to steal a home run.  He's again selected for the All-Star Game.  Late in the season, reports emerge that he had relapsed months earlier. Photos of him in bars, taking body shots off of miscellaneous women surface.  He apologizes for the relapse.

Josh and me on Opening Day in 2009.
2010 -- Josh moves to left field and is selected for his third consecutive All-Star Game appearance. He has a huge offensive year as the Rangers win the AL West, the ALCS, and the ALDS before losing the World Series.  He was voted AL MVP.

2011 -- Josh avoids arbitration and signs a two-year contract worth $24 million. On April 12, he's injured in a home plate collision. He returns to the team in late May and is selected as an All-Star again.  The Rangers return to the World Series but lose in seven games. 

2012 -- After a February incident in which Josh is again caught drinking alcohol, he has a strong start and is selected again for the All-Star Game. Sometime in the summer, his offense slumps a bit and the manager moves him down in the lineup.  Josh picks it up a little, but a key misplay in the last series of the season costs the Rangers a game and the AL West title.  In the wild card play-in game two days later, Josh is booed during his final at bat of the game.  In December, he signs a five-year, $125 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  On the way out, he takes some shots at the Rangers organization and fans, saying Arlington "isn't a baseball town."

2013-2014 -- Josh has a pretty rocky time in Anaheim.  He has hot spurts, but also more injuries and some slumps.

2015 -- While recovering from surgery, Josh admits he has again relapsed into drug and alcohol use. An arbitrator decides this is not in violation of MLB's policies and says he cannot be suspended.  The Angels front office is not pleased with this. They have already counted Josh out of their plans for the season -- he doesn't have a locker at spring training or the main clubhouse, and the owner has ordered all Hamilton merchandise removed from the stores.  On April 27, the Rangers acquire Josh for cash considerations. 

+++++

I confess I'm a bit mixed on my feelings about Josh coming back.  It's like taking back an ex.  You know there were good times and you remember them fondly, but there's still a sense that he might not be trustworthy.  He might betray you again.

Like a lot of other fans, I was irritated and frustrated with the end of Josh's last time as a Ranger. I thought he said some terrible things after he left about an organization who gave him a second life in baseball and supported him. I also think he should have been punished by MLB this time around for admitting he had relapsed. But he wasn't. And the Angels clearly don't want him. 

I feel a little better that the Rangers didn't give up much in terms of players or cash.  The Angels will still pay most of Josh's salary.  Yeah, they wanted rid of him that badly.  That should give me pause, but I'm trying not to dwell on it.  The Rangers are paying a pretty small price and taking a chance on him. I don't know, it might pay off. 

I worry a little about how his presence will affect the clubhouse chemistry that currently exists (because I do think chemistry is important for a team). Yes, the team is struggling, but they've been together for the last three months or so.  Will Josh disrupt that?

My hope is that he comes back hungry and ready to prove something. That could be pretty fun to watch. I'm not going to run out and buy a Hamilton jersey or anything, but if he's in a Rangers uniform, I'll support him. 

Beyond rooting for Josh as a baseball player, I will also continue to cheer him on as a human.  I don't know much about addiction. I don't know if it can ever be cured.  But I want Josh to beat it. I want him to get better.  

And if he hits a few home runs for the Rangers in the process, I'll take that too.

Want to see how an Angels fan feels about the deal?  Fortunately, one of my bloggy friends is an avid Halos fan, and we decided to team up and post our feelings about this on the same day. Click on over to A Peek at Karen's World to see what she has to say.



7 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I moved to Australia December 2008. I grew up an Astros fan, but being a Texan, I always keep my eye on other Texas teams too. I did not know the full history of Josh Hamilton. The most I knew about him was my cousin praising him after reading his book talking about what he's overcome and the power of his faith. Addiction is an ugly, ugly monster. I kind of wish the guy would step away from baseball and focus on his addiciton battle which he seems to be struggling with instead of sharing his focus on his professional sports career and his extra curricular activities. I'm no expert. But, as a human, I'd rather see him be clean and happy than have baseball success.

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  2. Wow. I didn't even know all of his back story. I knew he had struggled for a long time, but I didn't know about all those injuries and things that happened before he even made it into the league.

    I really hope he does well. I want him to get better and to kick his addictions for good. I don't think anyone can ever be "cured" of addiction, but I've seen with my own eyes that people can turn away from them and not go back down that hole. I hope Josh finally turns it around.

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  3. Wow - what a backstory. I loved reading this. I used to play fastball in a girls rep league and so have always had a soft spot for MLB. Its easy to see this is a passion for you and I think you gave a fantastic recap. :) Can't wait to read more posts like this.

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  4. I hope as a person he can get his life in order, it's just sad. And of course I would love for him to get it together as a baseball player. I'm still torn on how I feel. I'm sure I'll sort my feelings out eventually. Lol. :)

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  5. I love the Rangers, and I am a little meh about him coming back because he said all of those hurtful things about the Rangers. I do hope he is able to fight his addictions, though!

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  6. I was excited to see your collaboration with Karen after seeing you two discuss it on Twitter. I like many others started to enjoy Josh Hamilton after the All-Star Game where he had the ridiculous amount of hits in the derby. I met him before a game once and thought he was a sweet guy so I was sad when I heard he had fallen back into addiction. I didn't know much of his backstory or how his relationship with the Rangers ended. I hope it goes well.

    What do you think of him and his wife being on Real Housewives for the next season? I guess it was during filming that his addiction struggles came back to the surface and I think it all around was just a bad decision to get involved.

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  7. I didn't know much about him at all. Poor guy! I hope he turns everything around. I'm rooting for him too!

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