Josh Hamilton: A Cautionary Tale

He's got five fingers, and they're all pointed at everyone else.I wouldn't be worried about free agency [because] I'm going to concentrate on the Rangers and play baseball for this year and that's what I'm doing. I'm praying a lot about it; God will show up whether I'll be here or somewhere else. It's not about where I want to be – it's where he wants me to be.

For comments made less than a year ago, that time seems to have long since passed. Despite everything that has happened before and since, Josh Hamilton still doesn’t get it, and is once again proving that it’s all about him. No, not Him, the God Hamilton professes his faith for. It’s all about Josh Hamilton, the former Texas Rangers slugger that would have the rest of the baseball world feel sorry for the way he was treated by fans as his time in Arlington came to an unceremonious close.

You see, for all the talk about focusing on the season, keeping the business side of baseball from clouding his emotions, Hamilton is the one bringing emotion back into the picture. When he signed with the Angels in December, he likened the Rangers not going all-out for him to the Rangers not “putting a ring on it”, implying that his hurt feelings indeed played a part in his departure from Texas.  In an interview with CBS 11’2 Gina Miller on Sunday, Hamilton had some very pointed comments directed straight at the very fans that helped propel Hamilton into prominence after a well-publicized and constant battle with addiction once threatened to take him out of the game forever:

There are true baseball fans in Texas, but it’s not a true baseball town. They’re supportive, but they also got a little spoiled at the same time pretty quickly. You think about three to four years ago. It’s like, come on man, are you happier there again?

What Hamilton fails to realize is this: most people have a hard time feeling very sorry for a millionaire athlete. While once relishing the very same fans that supported him through several very public relapses, injuries, and even an accidental death at the ballpark, Hamilton is now pointing fingers at them, claiming they are spoiled. That includes me, and quite frankly, I don’t appreciate the way Hamilton is failing to own up to the fact that he got booed at the end, and only at the end, when his effort didn’t match the magnitude of the moment. Instead, he turns around and points fingers, blames everyone else, and uses God’s will as a crutch as if it somehow absolves him of accepting any sort of responsibility for his own failure to do the most basic thing an athlete is called to do: to try.

Prior to his late-season collapse in 2012, Hamilton had been mostly known as a player that gave an all-out effort, sometimes injuring himself in the process. Yet even in those times, he looked for someone to blame. In 2011, when a headfirst slide into home plate left him with a broken bone in his arm, he pointed his finger directly at third-base coach Dave Anderson, who sent Hamilton sprinting toward home plate in a game against the Detroit Tigers:

I listened to my third-base coach. That's a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. [He said], 'Nobody's at home, nobody's at home.' I was like, 'Dude, I don't want to do this. Something's going to happen.' But I listened to my coach. And how to you avoid a tag the best, by going in headfirst and get out of the way and get in there. That's what I did.

When asked again the next day how he felt about Anderson’s decision to send him home:

Dumb. People are going to blame who they want to blame. I threw him under the bus by telling the truth about what happened.

Yeah, since creating animosity with your coaches is always the best idea. Time after time, Hamilton, who had been told his entire life how talented he was, refused to listen to any kind of coaching, refused to change his plate approach, and at times, refused to even so much as take a pitch outside of the strike zone. His worst offense, however, came when he completely disappeared during the most crucial stretch of the season. Later citing too much caffeine, Hamilton sat out an important stretch of games with what he said was a vision issue. Upon his return, he had what many would consider an effort issue.

On the final day of the regular season, Hamilton dropped what is normally a routine fly ball, seemingly lacking any effort or hustle. In the AL wild-card game, Hamilton was 0-for-4, only taking 8 pitches to amass all 4 outs during the game. To even the most untrained eye, it seemed as if Hamilton was letting his emotions get the best of him, and he looked intent to just swing, get the day over with, and go home. Now, fortunately for Rangers fans, Hamilton can call California home.

Hamilton may not realize it yet, but it won't take several years of mounting frustration for him to go from fan-favorite to being booed. All he needs to do is ask Albert Pujols. Pujols went from being the game's most celebrated hitter to an afterthought in 2012. The first time Hamilton starts hacking at every pitch, throw a coach under the bus, or shows a lack of effort, he won't only be hearing it from his new manager, Mike Scioscia. He'll hear it even more from the fans. As bad as Hamilton may truly believe he was treated in Texas, he's about to find out just how good he really had it. It isn't called Texas hospitality for no reason. Until then, the idea of sitting in complete silence at every Hamilton at-bat in Arlington was brought up to me, and I couldn't think of a better way to handle the situation. After all, Hamilton has made it abundantly clear he has no love left for the fans that helped build him up to what he is now, and what better way to return the favor than by getting into his head with complete and utter silence?

There was a time when I believed one of baseball's most talented players would be a Ranger for the rest of his career. His own finger-pointing and lack of effort led to his departure. In the end, all the talent in the world won't take away from the fact that he just can't get over himself. Los Angeles, he's your problem now. Just don't say we didn't warn you when the home runs stop and Josh Hamilton blames everyone but himself.