By Joe Munley
Back in February, in my first post for Contrarian Fanatics, I wrote about Josh Hamilton and how he was a player – if only for the redemption angle to his story – we could all root for. It’s hard to be aware of Hamilton’s back story of drug and alcohol abuse and not pull for him to push back his demons and reach his full potential.
When he suffered a relapse this past off season, Hamilton’s demons likely cost him a massive contract. Understandably, the Rangers took a wait-and-see approach to contract negotiations with him. It would be foolish to invest upwards of $200 million on a player that can’t be counted on to resist making decisions that will adversely affect his team as well as himself. I would argue that it is foolish to invest $200 million on any player no matter the circumstances, but we’re talking about MLB reality here, so I’ll move on.
After Hamilton’s 4-homer game in Baltimore in which he tallied 18 total bases, and which set him on a path that will – if he can manage to stay on it – put him in position to possibly challenge Bonds’ Roid-tainted record. Josh was once more the focal point of the baseball world.
Will Hamilton win the Triple Crown? Will Hamilton challenge Bonds? Can Hamilton stay healthy? And inevitably: How much money is Hamilton worth considering his past?
The more important question though is ‘Will Hamilton stay in Texas?’
In my opinion, there are two very convincing reasons that Hamilton should remain in Texas – no matter the ultimate financial cost to him:
1) Everything may be bigger in Texas, but a bigger city would be a nightmare for his sobriety & his struggles to maintain it. If Josh is tempted to leave the Rangers for a more lucrative deal in a bigger market, he may just find that other temptations would become much harder to keep at bay.
2) Hamilton has a strong shoulder to lean on & a sympathetic ear to talk to in manager Ron Washington. Washington was one of the first people out in front of the media vowing to give Josh the time and support needed to get past his much publicized off season relapse. Having admitted to struggling with cocaine use himself, Washington is in the unique position of being able to tell Josh, “I know what you’re going through”, and actually mean it.
Ron Washington is the key. He will not only provide understanding, but he will provide consistency… Not only on the diamond – where he has finished with a better record than the previous season in each of his first 6 seasons as manager of the Rangers – but also on a personal level. He will BE THERE. Nolan Ryan is in Ron Washington’s corner. He likes the way Ron handles his business, and he loves the results Washingon gets from a group of guys that pride themselves on hustle and overachieving.
In short, Ron Washington isn’t going anywhere. If Josh Hamilton is smart he’ll stay on board in Texas where he’s blessed to be so revered, and to be managed by a guy who actually does know what he’s going through.