Sunday, December 16, 2012

Josh Angel

by Bill Holmes

It has been a few days now since Josh Hamilton signed a $125 million, five year contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  I don't blame Josh for signing the contract.  That's an obscene amount of money and a long contract considering his age, past, physical and mental frailties.  In my opinion it is more than he is worth so I'm glad the Rangers didn't resign him at that price.  What I do find distasteful is the way the contract came about and his and his wife's comments.

The Rangers did everything to help Josh become a productive ballplayer.  Too much in my opinion.  They traded a top young pitcher to Cincinnati for Josh when it was unknown if he had truly kicked his drug/alcohol problems.  He had been through eight rehab sessions and missed 3 1/2  years of baseball.  They provided him with a full time babysitter-traveling companion-life coach-spiritual adviser to keep him on the wagon.  Then they forgave and supported him twice when he still managed to fall off that wagon.  They put up with his sometimes suspect injuries or when he lost focus.  They didn't bench him when he was in any of his numerous slumps.  They didn't kick him in the ass when he basically said the manager and coaches were full of shit when they suggested changes to him. They had ginger ale team celebrations when they won playoffs and pennants so that champagne and beer wouldn't touch his pure lips.  All of this while also paying him millions to play.

There is no doubt that Josh Hamilton is a top five ballplayer, when he decides to show up.  He was the 2010 American League MVP, he is a lifetime .300 hitter, he has averaged over 90 RBI and 25 HRs per year.  Those numbers look even better when you factor in that in six years he has averaged only 122 games played, 75%.  While that number of games played make his numbers look better, it also points out a major problem.  Hard to believe at 6'4" and 240 lbs., but Josh is fragile.  In his five years at Texas, he missed 163 games.  That's a full season.  So, for 100% salary you get 75% to 80% production.  That makes his new $25 mil. salary equivalent to about $30 mil.  The other secret to those numbers is how streaky and inconsistent Josh can be.  In 2012 his monthly batting averages were .395, .344, .223, .177,  .310, .259, .154.  His career playoff batting average is .227.  When he's hot he's hot and when he's not he can be terrible.  His fielding can go from highlight reel to t-ball also.  

I think Josh is basically a very gifted natural athlete who has always been head and shoulders better than the competition.  Sometimes he loses focus, maybe out of boredom, maybe because he has fried some brain cells during his lost years.  A Tweet by Jeff Wilson, Rangers beat writer for the FW Star-Telegram, reporting on the physical Josh took for the new Angels contract - ‏"Eye doc says Josh Hamilton has 20/13 vision. No word on how good his focus is."  is right on.  Because he is so gifted, I don't think he ever learned how to take criticism or coaching.  When he was in the midst of that wonderful .177 batting average for July it was suggested by the manager and coaches that he be a little more patient at the plate.  Maybe not swing at that pitch that is four feet outside and in the dirt.  His response was that is how he has always batted.  Basically saying to people who have been in the major leagues for decades that he, the Great Josh Hamilton, knew more than they did and wasn't about to change.  He threw the third base coach under the bus when he was injured on a play at home plate.  He looked shocked whenever the manager questioned anything he did.  Who could possibly question Josh?  When the media questioned him about problems or poor play one of his stock answers was basically that's just Josh being Josh, stuff happens.  At one point he couldn't hit in day games.  The doctors examined him and then made up some condition he has.  They did eye drops, sun glasses and a couple of other things to fix it.  I don't know if it was a real condition and real treatments or all a farce with placebo fixes.  Late last season he had more vision problems.  This time it was diagnosed as too much caffeine.  Really?  It kept him out of five games.  Some of his poor performance in 2012 he blamed on trying to quit smokeless tobacco.  Shouldn't you make major changes to your daily routine and habits during the off-season?  I've been following baseball for over 50 years and I've never heard this kind of BS.  There is one constant in the Josh Hamilton story - drama. 

The last thing that bothered and bothers me about the Hamilton family is their attitude about the Rangers.  Now they are saying that the Rangers didn't court or woo them enough during contract talks.  Some of these comments came from Josh's wife who has made negative and anti-Rangers comments in the past.  Josh said early in the 2012 season that he didn't owe the Rangers anything.  That's true.  In today's me first world that's how people in sports, both sides, think.  Later he backed off that stance and said that the Rangers would have a chance to match or counter any offer from other teams.  That's not what happened.  No last chance.  Despite the Hamilton's constant mantra about how God/Jesus is the most important thing, they don't feel they owe the Rangers anything and feel slighted because the Rangers didn't stroke their egos enough.  Very Christ-like.  Real Christians practice humility and gratitude.  This is another reason I'm not sad to see Josh leave Arlington.  I hate athletes and others who wrap themselves in faith and then don't live up to those standards.  I don't live up to those standards either, but I don't profess to do so and don't pretend that some higher being is responsible for all my actions and guiding my every move.  That's another subject for another blog.   

So, the Rangers will miss the Hamilton bat in the middle of the lineup.  I don't think they will miss the drama.  They should be able to use part of the $25 mil. savings to build a better team.  My predictions, I think Josh will have outstanding moments with the Angels.  Maybe an outstanding year or two but not five years.  He will also have real and imaginary injuries and funks and slumps.  The celebrity media in Southern California will be oppressive and far less kind than the D/FW media.  They don't care about anything but a juicy story.  TMZ would love another episode with Josh, shaving cream, booze and young women.  I don't think the Hamiltons are as tough or smart as they think they are.  They had a pretty easy time here with the Rangers.  $125 mil. for five years is about $50 mil. and two years too much.  

Good luck Josh but I won't miss you.


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