Is Josh Hamilton's comeback the best story of the 2015 season?
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By Liam McGuire
To say Josh Hamilton’s career has been full of up and downs would be a dramatic understatement.
We all know the story now – Hamilton is a former first overall pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays who’s supreme talent was derailed by crippling addiction. He rose above his troubles to become one of the games most feared hitters with the Texas Rangers, where he was the AL MVP in 2010. After signing a huge $125 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels and struggling to stay healthy, Hamilton relapsed.
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Angels owner Arte Moreno expressed his disappointment in Hamilton to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
Moreno said he was “disappointed” in Hamilton.
“More than anything, we look at accountability,” Moreno said. “With all of our players and all of our employees, we look for accountability.
“We understand he’s had troubles and he’s still having troubles. But the reality is, there is accountability when you make an agreement.”
It was clear Moreno wanted Hamilton gone. His gross public statements cemented that. He quickly removed every existing Hamilton connection to the Angels organization and shipped him back to the Rangers – where Hamilton had the most success in his career. Moreno wanted him gone so badly that he agreed to pay $63 million of the roughly $80 million still owed to the slugger.
From all the sad stories we’ve seen about Hamilton over the years, his Rangers introductory press conference was something to marvel. He looked happy and healthy and absolutely thrilled to be on a team that wanted him. It seemed like a fitting reunion.
“If I could change the past, I would not have left,” Hamilton said. “But you can only learn from it and I’ve learned a lot the last couple of years.”
While Hamilton had to wait to make his season debut with the Rangers while he was rehabbing from an injury, what he’s done so far in his short stint with the team been a breath of fresh air.
In his return to Arlington, he looked like vintage Josh Hamilton. In his fifth game with the club, Hamilton blasted two home runs in back-to-back at bats against the Red Sox. Two days later, entering a game against the Sox with a runner on first and third, down one run with two outs, Hamilton came to the plate and promptly won the game with one swing.
His Rangers teammates reactions were that of pure jubilation – as were the fans. With a single swing, Hamilton went back in history.
The Rangers have gone on a big run since they acquired Hamilton. The team was 7-12 the day the deal was struck, and with Hamilton’s walk-off hit they’re now 26-25 and over .500 for the first time this season. While the Rangers run didn’t happen solely because of the team's Hamilton acquisition (Prince Fielder has been raking), he’s definitely going to play a big part going forward. In the seven games Hamilton has appeared in, he’s hit two home runs and driven in five while slashing a .273/.385/.636 line – a small but encouraging sample size. The Rangers are also 5-2 in games that Hamilton has played.
While early reviews suggest Hamilton will succeed in Texas, it’s still early too early to say if this is going to work out for both parties. Hamilton has said all of the right things and has backed it up with his performance at the plate, but to be truly successful, he needs to keep things right off the field.
If he can return to anywhere close to the great baseball player he was before he left Texas, it would be quite the coup for the Rangers. Heck, even if he’s just half of that, it will be a win.
While it might have seemed strange to think about Hamilton returning to Texas after fans turned their back on when he left, I can’t think of a better place for him. It’s hard not to cheer for Hamilton.