Even before what happened to the Texas Rangers last week, it was unlikely that the team would re-sign Josh Hamilton. The team’s front office is just too smart to offer the outfielder the kind of contract (money and years) that he’s expected to command in free agency this winter. They’re too smart to do it because they know that offering that much to a player on the declining-skills side of age 30 with a history of injuries is a bad idea.
Then last week happened, and it became apparent that a good number of Rangers fans, even casual Rangers fans, will understand when the team lets its most popular player of the last several years walk away. He dropped that easy fly ball in Oakland on Wednesday, and he hardly seemed to be trying at all in the Wild Card game on Friday. He just went up to the plate swinging at nearly every pitch the Orioles threw at him. You could understand the boos of the crowd for a player that gave the impression that he believed his time in Texas was already over.
On Grantland today, Bryan Curtis writes that Hamilton is a “Prisoner of Redemption,” unable to live up to the recovering-addict-who-escaped-Satan’s-grasp-to-become-a-helluva-ballplayer story that made him all that more beloved to many fans. Curtis argues that many of the attributes that were key to that story also led to him becoming despised by some this year.
Rangers fans and writers pulled out their knives. Hamilton, it was said, was high-maintenance. Of course, he’d always been high-maintenance – a celebrated part of The Story was that Hamilton had an “accountability partner,” Johnny Narron, who stayed one hotel room over; that he had to be sprayed with ginger ale while his teammates were sprayed with champagne. Hamilton, it was said, created clubhouse “drama.” Well, yeah. This is the guy who said he saw Satan in the clouds. This is the guy who came to Arlington with the most pharmacologically adventurous past this side of Hollywood Henderson. That we thought his drama ended with Act 3 – at the conclusion of the book or DVD or testimonial – showed we were as beguiled by The Story as Hamilton was.