Nolan Ryan publicly questions Josh Hamilton’s attempt to quit chewing tobacco

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Just when you thought that things couldn't get any worse for Josh Hamilton down in Texas, he's now being criticized for choosing to kick his chewing tobacco habit during the season instead of waiting until winter.

And not just by any random loudmouth with a Twitter handle, blog or newspaper column, but by the president of the Texas Rangers himself.

As ESPN Dallas notes, Nolan Ryan said during a Tuesday radio appearance that he wishes Hamilton had delayed his decision to ditch the dip until after the Rangers' season was over.

From ESPN Dallas:

"His timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldn't have been worse. You would've liked to have thought that if he was going to do that that he would've done it in the offseason or waited until this offseason 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."

Hamilton made headlines back in August after he said he was struggling to quit his use of chewing tobacco. The admission came after Hamilton had cryptically blamed his post All-Star break slump on a personal issue that involved him being "disobedient" toward God. Hamilton's second-half numbers (.259/.323/.510, 16 homers and 53 RBIs) weren't terrible, but they also weren't the stellar first-half totals that had him leading the early AL MVP talk.

Between Hamilton's addiction struggles with chewing tobacco and caffeine drinks, it would appear that it did have an impact on his second-half numbers.

So does Ryan have any ground to stand on here, especially after someone told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that the team wasn't concerned about it? Barry Petchesky of Deadspin notes there's a school of thought that says Hamilton is "expected to keep his body and mind in optimum shape in multiple ways, and one of those would be not doing anything to mess with his brain chemistry to the point where it affects his game."

That view is bunk, though. You can't spend five seasons voicing your support as Hamilton battles the temptation of drugs and alcohol, then selectively question the timing of his quest to rid himself of another addiction. It's detrimental to Hamilton's health, for one. It's also hypocritical as the new collective bargaining agreement discourages the use of chewing tobacco on the field and in the dugout.

It's a shame that Ryan would publicly call Hamilton out for trying to do the right thing for his health, no matter the timing of the attempt. Not only does it reveal how far baseball has to go before taking chewing tobacco abuse seriously, but it also looks like Ryan attempting to blame the team's 2012 collapse on an out-of-favor star who probably won't be back for 2013.

Not cool, Nolan. Not cool at all.

Make sure all your bases are covered this postseason ...
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