If there was any hope of Josh Hamilton receiving even a lukewarm welcome upon his return to Arlington in April, he just blew it.
Hamilton, in an interview with KTVT, the Dallas-Fort Worth CBS affiliate, Hamilton called Rangers fans spoiled and said the D-FW area is not a true baseball town.
He’s right, basically, but he’s wrong to say it. Because he’s one of the main culprits in cultivating that mindset.
“Texas, especially Dallas, has always been a football town. So, the good with the bad is, they’re supportive, but they also got a little spoiled at the same time, pretty quickly,” Hamilton told CBS 11. “There’s true, true baseball fans in Texas, but it’s not a true, true baseball town.”
First, there’s the issue of this being a “football town.” It’s hard to argue with that when the Dallas Cowboys dominate the sports landscape in D-FW, even in lean years.
North Texas is where a $1.2 billion shrine to football was built across the parking lot from Rangers Ballpark. Last fall, 48,379 filed into the shrine, aka Cowboys Stadium, to watch a high school state championship game. And that wasn’t even a record.
So yeah, we like our football in North Texas. But it wasn’t just Red Sox and Yankees fans who boosted the Rangers to 3.4 million in attendance last season. So we must like our baseball, too.
Probably what Hamilton is getting at is the stereotype of football being more of an instant gratification sport than baseball. Football fans want to see action on every play while baseball fans must be patient over nine innings and 162 games.
Yet if there’s one part of baseball that fits the label of instant gratification, it’s the tape-measure home run hitter. In other words, Josh Hamilton.
When Hamilton was healthy and in a hot streak, you had a good chance of seeing him bang a ball off a scoreboard every night.
When he wasn’t healthy or mired in one of his agonizing slumps, is it unfair for fans to expect more out of him?
Which leads us to the “spoiled” label Hamilton put on Rangers fans. Sure, back-to-back World Series appearances will do that to a fan base. In addition to being a football town, the Dallas area has been called a winner’s town for decades.
When the Mavs are hot, everyone in D-FW is a Mavs fan. Dallas is no Detroit, but there were lots of cars flying Stars flags when the local NHL franchise was playing for Stanley Cups.
But if there’s anyone who spoiled Rangers fans, it was Hamilton and his Roy Hobbs-like gifts. He always teased the fans with his feats, but rarely followed through.
In the first three months of last season, Hamilton had 25 homers and 73 RBIs. He finished with impressive totals of 43 homers and 128 RBis. No one expected Hamilton to stay as hot as he started 2012, but if he had just cooled down he would have easily had 50 or 60 homers.
Instead, he went into a deep freeze and never gave the appearance of trying to fight his way out of it. Hamilton was booed at the end of 2012 not because he was striking out, but because he was stubbornly flailing at the first pitches he saw.
By the end, Hamilton even began having problems making plays in the field, which had never happened before even during his worst hitting slumps. He gave every appearance of a player who had mentally checked out. It’s not the fans’ fault for noticing.
It was much like Hamilton’s awesome display in the home run derby at the 2008 All-Star Game. Everyone remembers Hamilton hitting moon shots over Yankee Stadium. He hit 28 homers in the first round, an incredible display of natural power.
But Hamilton ran out of gas by the final round and lost the home run contest to Justin Morneau.
Hamilton’s tank was also empty at the end of his time with the Rangers, but he doesn’t mention that in his recent comments. Instead of looking in the rearview mirror at the fans in Arlington, he would have been better off keeping his eyes on the road – the high road.