For the last few weeks, the struggles of Josh Hamilton have been a growing concern for the Texas Rangers. After getting off to a hot start that had everyone conceding the AL MVP trophy to him, he went in the tank. In June his OPS fell to a mortal .754. In July, he bottomed out with a .607 OPS and was called out by both his manager and team owner for his deteriorating approach at the plate and seeming unwillingness to make adjustments. Things were bad and getting worse but nobody knew why, at least until now.
Late last week, Hamilton gave these odd comments to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
"There's so much more involved. I don't know," he said. "I'm cool, man. I'm really good. The frustrating part is this [dealing with the media] and not being able to share everything with you guys. When the time is right, I'll be honest with you, you'll be right in the loop.
He said everything is good spiritually.
"I've been shown a lot of things over the past week," he said. "There's disobedience and there's obedience to God. I've been being disobedient. It may be a small thing to you, but it's a big thing to him. There's consequences. It's like a father and a kid. There are disciplines. You guys can chew on that and think about it.
Disobedient to God? Given his devout nature, there is no real surprise to see him relate whatever he is dealing with to his faith, but talk about head-scratching. But wait there's more, this time from Texas manager Ron Washington:
The issues is something that I think Josh would definitely have to be the one to expose. It's certainly not physical. It has nothing to do with injuries. Josh is the one that made the statement and got all the inquiries going, and I think Josh is the one that has to put a rest to the inquiries, not Ron Washington. I can just tell you one thing: It is not because he's hurt.
And this is where the rampant speculation begins considering Hamilton's well-known history with substance abuse and alleged infidelity, including a highly public relapse Hamilton suffered just this last off-season. Fans are already making wild guesses about marital problems and other possible issues relating to his past.
Whatever the reason is, Texas has to hope Hamilton can get it in order quickly. After their searing start to the year, the Rangers and their once-dominant offense have gone as Hamilton has gone, most notably with Texas going 9-14 in the month of July. If Hamilton's "non-physical" issue continue to drag him down, he is going to continue to drag down the heart of the Texas lineup and with it the Rangers' odds of winning the AL West now that both the Angels and A's are nipping at their heels.
The more troubling aspect of all this for Texas is that it clouds their future with Hamilton who is a free agent this off-season. While it may seem callous to worry about such matters while a player is dealing with undisclosed personal matters, it is also hard to ignore the ripple effect this could have on the entire landscape of baseball. Hamilton is the best player on what many believe to be the best team in baseball and possibly a dynasty in waiting and they now find themselves in the tenuous position of choosing between letting him walk away and trying to replace him or hitching their wagon to him with a lucrative long-term contract knowing that they are taking a huge gamble on his personal issues. In a lot of ways that has always been the case with Hamilton, but in light of these recent comments, the risk appears to have multiplied several times over.
Considering all that Hamilton has gone through in his life, one can only hope that this situation is being overblown and that everything ends happily. But until/if Hamilton explains what is going on, it is only going to lead to increased public scrutiny of his performance and increased uncertainty over the future of the Ranger franchise.
(big h/t to Baseball Time in Arlington)
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com