Monday, February 18, 2013

Hamilton Crossed the Line That Rangers Fans Drew

Josh Hamilton has never been one to beat around the bush. He even admitted as much to the media today, February 18th, 2013. And yet he had spent the last 2 months avoiding the one topic that everyone wanted him to talk about: leaving the Rangers and joining the Angels in order to send a message to Texas and its fan base.

Truthfully, Hamilton has not directly said that he signed his 5-year, $125 million deal with the Halos as a means of exacting revenge on the team that he helped re-structure into a baseball powerhouse from 2008-2012. However, there have been hints and signals from Hamilton himself that gives evidence to vengeance. Obviously, the top evidence can be found in the fact that he is now in an Angels uniform, but it goes deeper than that.

Let's not forget the comments that Josh made in his introductory press conference. He said that he "Gave the Rangers the first chance to sign (him) back" and they metaphorically "let him date" other teams. That does not sound like a player who faced a huge dilemma when presented with the decision to either stay the course with Texas or jump ship and wear Angel red for the foreseeable future. It sounds like a player who was fed up with the organizational strategy of a Texas team that never really wanted him back in the first place.

And so, eight weeks passed. Things were seemingly quiet on the Hamilton front, other than a few articles here and there that debated where he should hit in the lineup, and a few others that argued whether a $125 million deal is justifiable for a player with such a troubled past. There was also the occasional article discussing the fractured relationship between Rangers GM Jon Daniels and Josh Hamilton himself. In one article, Daniels even had a hard time wishing Hamilton good luck.

Here is what Daniels had to say:
"It's the nature of this business — if it works out for the Angels it hits us doubly hard; if it doesn't work out for them, it could help us," Daniels said. "I'd say I wish Josh the best, but I'm not really sure I do. Personally, I do. Professionally, I'm not sure." (

Clearly, there was anger there. And if there's anger on one side of the table, then there has to be anger on the other side. The thing that was uncertain was the level of frustration that had built up within Josh Hamilton. It was becoming clearer that he had, indeed, left the Rangers as a result of the actions made by the front office.

The media craved for more. Clearly, there had to be something that had pushed Hamilton over the edge of loyalty and into sunny Southern California. Then, on Monday, February 18, the truth spilled out.

It was not the front office of the Rangers that had driven Hamilton out. In fact, he was grateful for the opportunity given to him by that group of individuals- Nolan Ryan, Daniels, Manager Ron Washington. The frustration was not for them, but for the Rangers fanbase.

In an interview with the television station CBS-11 of Dallas, Hamilton said that Rangers fans are "not a true fan base." He called them spoiled by the team's success. He said they cared more about football. And by doing so, he lit a fire of hatred that will likely lead to years of loud booing from the same fanbase that had "supported" him for years.

Why do I put 'supported' in quotes? Well, it's simple. When the team was winning, the crowd was loud and in awe of Hamilton's pure hitting abilities, roaring with glee after every gargantuan homerun that slammed off his bat. Hamilton jerseys were everyone in the stands, and chants of "MVP! MVP!" were heard year in and year out. This was seemingly a loving and appreciative fanbase, one who adored Josh and the things he stood for. It was a match made in heaven, and it seemed Hamilton had finally found the place where he could become the player he was destined to become years before.

But what about when the team struggled? And not just when the team struggled, but Hamilton himself? The thing about Josh is that he has always been a streaky hitter, for reasons unknown. He will belt 2 homeruns one night, and strike out 4 times the next. But the peaks and valleys of his career were never more evident than in 2012. The peak of the first half had him  hitting .407 and on pace to break Barry Bonds' single season homerun record of 71. The valley of the second half saw him hit just .259 and swing at more pitches outside the strike zone than anyone else in baseball.

Then, the team squandered a 5-game Division lead over the Oakland A's in the matter of just 9 days, and Hamilton dropped a ball in the sun in the deciding game 162 that led to 3 runs. In the blink of an eye, the division was lost. In half the blink of an eye, the Rangers were defeated by the Baltimore Orioles in a one-game Wild Card playoff. Hamilton went 0-4, seeing only 8 pitches.

The same crowd that had given Hamilton so much love and affection had now stomped on his very reputation and made him a scapegoat. They booed him off the field. The fan comments via the internet blamed Hamilton for the team's failures. The Texas Rangers were instead the Texas Hamilton, and he had failed to lead the team to the World Series.

It's never fair to pin the failures of a 25-man team on one person. It's even worse to pin it on the very man who had helped transform the franchise into more than a perennial cellar dwellar. The Texas fan base had taken the very man who they had idolized and turned him into a trophy symbol of unmet expectations.

And that is why it is not fair to say that Hamilton has it all wrong. To say that he has over-stepped is downright false. He did not over-step the boundaries of fairness, and he has not wrongfully accused an entire fanbase, as some say he did. No, he is simply shoving back verbally. He has risen from the ground that the Texas fanbase had kicked him into.

Texas' fanbase may be solid. They might be loud, and they just might be supportive and in large numbers for the last few years. But it comes down to how you handle moments of failure, not just moments of glory. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have fans that boo regularly, that is true. But they also have 34 world titles and over 200 years of combined franchise histories to back up their extremely large expectations.

The Rangers have just 40 years of mostly playoff-free baseball, with 2 World Series appearances, both of which occured in the last 3 years, to base their expectations on. The Ranger fans seem to have forgotten one of the key reasons why they were even in those 2 World Series:

Josh Hamilton.

1 comment:

  1. As an angels fan who lives in McKinney tx and makes it out to Angels road games in Arlington I can tell you that Josh Hamelton is spot on about this fan base. In 2009 when the Angels ran away with the division there was no one to be found at the ballpark in Sept, and I could get field level tickets to watch my playoff bound Halos for less than $20 a pop. As Josh turned this team into the AL west powerhouse tickets have gotten harder to find and my seats have gotten further and further from the action.

    Angels fans especially have to perfect analog for a player who joined our team and transformed it from a perennial also ran to one that is always contending for a playoff spot. Vladimir Guerrero was that player, sure we had a World Series win under our belt but before Vladdy making the playoffs was hit and miss, after Vladdy it was expected every year, and how did Angels fans thank him after he "defected" to the rival Rangers finally tipping the balance of power in the west to Texas? We gave him a huge standing ovation!

    I personally stood to applaud Vladdy for every at bat I witnessed here in Arlington, good or bad (thankfully they were mostly bad) he was a transformative player for my team. I hope that the folks attending the 1st Rangers/Angels game this year will do the same for Josh, he's the same quality of player, but I kinda doubt they will, it just doesn't seem like something a football fan would do.



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