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Josh zings & misses in Texas return
I would volunteer to be Josh Hamilton’s publicist, except it’s too late.
I would have advised Hamilton to say all the right things about Dallas-Fort Worth, rather than question the region’s merits as a “baseball town.”
I would have advised him to make peace with Rangers fans, rather than say, “I will never take back what I said until they show up here every night for 30 years.”
Finally, I would have told him to make like Red Sox manager John Farrell did under similar circumstances this weekend in Toronto, and take the high road even if the fans will not.
Instead, Hamilton needlessly picked a fight with Rangers fans in spring training, creating what he described to reporters as an “absolute nightmare” when he returned to Texas with his new team, the Angels.
The strain on Hamilton is evident — he went 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and a walk in the first two games of the series, falling to 1-for-20 for the season. On Saturday, the Rangers almost gleefully turned up the heat on their former slugger, issuing three intentional walks to the hitter in front of him, Albert Pujols.
I’d almost feel sorry for Hamilton, if only he hadn’t brought much of this upon himself.
Farrell never will be forgiven in Toronto for saying that Boston was his “dream job” after the Blue Jays traded him to the Red Sox. Hamilton, likewise, never will be forgiven in Texas for bolting the Rangers for their chief division rival as a free agent — and questioning the loyalty of the fans who had supported him the previous five years.
Both Farrell and Hamilton have been booed loudly, even viciously, in their former cities the past two days. But Farrell, at least, was smart enough to be diplomatic, showing that he understood the inevitable criticism that players and managers face when they take controversial stands.
“We live in the public eye,” Farrell told reporters. “Every move we make, every action we undertake is scrutinized and publicized and talked through and through. Sports gives people the right to express their opinion in the stands.”
I’m not saying the fans in Texas were completely rational. I’m not saying the fans in Toronto were completely rational, either. The anger in both places, at times, was over the top, difficult for outsiders to comprehend.
Hamilton wasn’t wrong when he said that football is king in Texas. And it’s pretty easy to understand why Farrell, after two frustrating seasons with the Jays, longed to return to Boston, where he was comfortable with the front office and had succeeded as a pitching coach.
But guess what?
Many fans don’t care.
If you’re still keeping score in the age of social media, rational discourse trails by 10 runs in the bottom of the ninth — and the deficit only keeps getting larger, with fans feeling more empowered than ever before.
Of course, certain truths remain self-evident.
Fans will forgive almost anything from someone who helps their team win. And fans will turn immediately on that same individual the moment he is gone.
Oddly, Hamilton doesn’t seem to get all of that. He apparently believes that Rangers fans should support him forever, even though he drove them nuts with his play at the end of last season, even though he found the team’s record attendance of 3.46 million to be somehow lacking, even though he jumped to the Angels for $125 million in December.
Farrell, 50, is older than Hamilton, 31, savvier in how he deals with fans and media, more experienced in the real world. Hamilton, for all of his off-field struggles with addiction, is your typical superstar, accustomed to being coddled.
If anything, Hamilton is fortunate that Dallas-Fort Worth is less of “a baseball town” than others; otherwise, he would have faced far greater scrutiny during his time in Texas. Some with the club actually were surprised he did not receive more criticism for his various missteps and eccentricities.
This sense of betrayal that Hamilton seems to feel from some Rangers fans ... please. He could not have realistically expected the fans to continue treating him as “Our Josh.” Once he signed with the Angels, he was, “Their Josh.” There is nothing Hamilton can say to change that, which is why he should have said nothing at all.
Fans, too, sound ridiculous when they act betrayed. Whether Hamilton reneged on a promise to give the Rangers a chance to top any other team’s offer is immaterial. The Rangers had plenty of chances to sign Hamilton, and they passed.
In Farrell’s case, Canadians often bristle when high-profile sports figures leave their country for the U.S. Americans should not take a condescending view of emotions that few of us understand. But did Jays fans really want to keep Farrell, to the point where they would call him a “traitor” for leaving?
Ah, there I go again, trying to inject logic into the conversation. Many fans would rather just vent, and that is their right.
I’d say the sooner Hamilton understands that, the better. But unfortunately for him, it’s already too late.
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