My seven-year-old son has woken up every morning for the past month and said, "What did Miggy do?" He quickly follows it up with, "What about Josh?" My son is a diehard fan of the Texas Rangers, but Miguel Cabrera's attack on the Triple Crown has captivated him like most baseball fans. He has known that Josh Hamilton would be the main person capable of keeping Cabrera away from that elusive feat and while he has wanted the Rangers to succeed, he has hoped that Cabrera could hold off Josh.
The ironic thing to me about all of this is that my son could have been captivated by one of his favorite players on his favorite team. Josh Hamilton could have easily been Miguel Cabrera this season. Yes, it is a very long season and we have to go all the way back to the end of May to see Hamilton with a .368 average, but Hamilton was completely dominating the game during April and May and then the summer came and the wheels came off. Hamilton had begun to slump by the All-Star break, but he still had 27 home runs and 75 RBIs. The average had already dipped to .308, but even at the halfway mark the numbers were impressive. His team was also impressive with a four game lead over the Angels in the American League West and a nine game lead over the Athletics.
There has been much already made of Hamilton's misplayed fly ball during game 162 against the Athletics. There is so much to say, yet ultimately it is just a symbol of a disappointing season. Hamilton was spectacular at points this season, but then there were many moments and even months that he completely let down his team. During the final week and a half of the season when the Rangers lost seven of nine games, Hamilton went 10 for 39 at the plate with no homers, four RBIs and zero walks. The Rangers offense was completely silent and Hamilton was a big reason for that.
No matter how this season turns out for the Rangers, Josh Hamilton's mark will be on the season. He is the type of ballplayer that can majorly impact things and there is a great chance he can catch fire in a few days and help carry his team to a third straight World Series. There is no doubt that if the Rangers make it to the World Series in 2012, Hamilton will be a big reason why. At the same time, if they do not return, he will be a major reason for that as well.
Baseball is a team game. It takes a team to win and it takes a team to lose. It is completely unfair to pin Wednesday's loss on Hamilton. A lot more went wrong in that game than the misplayed fly ball, but that one play was a great representation of a player, a team and a season. At a time when his team needed him the most, he kind of just lost focus and disappeared. Kind of how he lost focus and disappeared for the months of June and July.
Hamilton is as talented as they come. He can carry a team like very few ballplayers have been able to do, but he can also bring a low at times that very few superstars ever find. Just like many things in Hamilton's life, his performance on the baseball field is a bit of a mystery. You just never know what you are going to get.
This really was a season where everyone should have been talking about Josh Hamilton's pursuit of the Triple Crown, but instead has been filled with preseason addiction drama, a four home run game, major slumps, tobacco addiction, over-caffeinated eyes and a misplayed fly ball. While Hamilton is the type of player that can carry a team, he has never been the type of player to lead a team. Leaders do not have focus problems.
The conversation between Hamilton and Ron Washington after the fly ball was very interesting. Who knows what was said during that conversation, but it didn't seem that Hamilton was very interested in hearing what his manager had to say. It is never easy to hear criticism, but going by body language and expressions alone, that is not how a leader responds to his manager during a crucial game.
Whether the Rangers win or lose the World Series this season or not, the Hamilton story and drama is far from over. Quickly after the season ends the story will turn to whether the Rangers are going to re-sign him or not. This will be a difficult decision for the Rangers and every other team in baseball as there has never really been a player with this type of profile hit the open market. The Rangers will have to decide what they want to do, but in the end they should look at the countless focus issues and determine if they are looking for ballplayers that can carry a team or ballplayers who can help lead a team.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
- Sports & Recreation
- Josh Hamilton
- Miguel Cabrera