For all the fretting about the Texas Rangers re-opening contract discussions with Josh Hamilton, his extraordinary and power-hitting performances, the 16th major leaguer to drill four home runs in one game against the Orioles the other night, should earn him a raise in his salary. Rest assured, he’s the No. 1 Power Ranger, like Tommy, the Red Ranger.
If Hamilton is your American League MVP this season, as it may be worth a debate, it’s because he’s powered the Rangers with his artistic swing at nearly every at-bat and has channeled Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson rolled into one. As it stands, currently, he leads the major leagues in a .406 batting average and has driven in 38 runs with a .840 slugging percentage. It’s so right, in fact, that he deserves a contract when evidently he’s hitting better than anyone else with fat paychecks, and players who are well taken care of as their clubs handed out millions. Hamilton saw Albert Pujols sign a 10-year, $240 million deal, and after one of the best sluggers in the game chose Anaheim for his next home, Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers agreed to a nine-year, $214 million deal.
But he’s never gotten a contract extension and top-dollar rewards, even though Hamilton mounted to high status in his splendiferous career so far, greater and much more improved than the money-making players of the league who haven’t wholly amounted to much in the course of this season. The folksy Texas people are merely seeing the Rangers breed a core of stars, and more importantly, observing Hamilton turn into a primary slugger in the heart of Texas for the ballclub located in reasonably a respectable atmosphere of loyal fans. It’s worth reminding you that he’s an inspiration, particularly to kids, as Hamilton recovered from alcoholism and drug addiction.
After alcohol and drugs almost destroyed his career, a regretful Hamilton has wonderfully refocused on his career, and the Rangers gave him a chance in a forgiven country. It’s only a matter of time before the Rangers will feed Hamilton and his family for many years to come, with endless talk of the outfielder earning one of the richest deals among any player in the majors. It could arguably be one of the most interesting contract negotiations in baseball involving Hamilton, who is represented by the world’s most powerful agent, Scott Boras. Making sure his players are in good hands, Boras will demand anywhere over $200 million to make Hamilton richer than ever and a valuable slugger in the long-term for Texas.
So this week, amazingly, we are seeing Hamilton have the best season of his career. Just a few years ago, he was the comeback kid — thankfully so — putting aside the bottle of Crown Royal and the large quantities of heroin. The local and national media are now reporting that he’s close to a new contract. Strong people make an effort to turn around their lives, try whatever it takes to avoid troubled comrades, whether it is staying out of tattoo parlors or away from local bars to not have a few drinks for another alcohol relapse. His team is winning, a game the Bushes have front row seats, watching the Rangers have an historic tear in this premature season.
It’s one thing to embrace a winning team. It’s entirely another to think highly of a player as good as Hamilton. The whole start to the season sounds moving emotionally in theory, when Hamilton had six homers during a four-game series against Baltimore, more than many power hitters this season alone. This is an eye-opener for baseball, front-page news for the folks in Texas, and president and CEO Nolan Ryan is satisfied in what he is witnessing, only hoping his Rangers can return to the World Series and win the pennant this time. Three times the charm maybe, just maybe, as good as Hamilton is swinging the bat, seeing the ball better than any major leaguer.
The Rangers took chances, and now they have benefited, gambling on a player who actually is Texas’ best hitter. There was no way they knew he’d be the right man for the job, with his prior history of substance abuse. There was no way they knew he was this good, an erratic, problematic individual with too many weaknesses, oblivious and heedless about his baseball career that is now intact and well on its way to something incredible — maybe now too far-fetched to implode.
It hasn’t been too much to ask, except that he wants a brand new contract, a huge-money deal, so give it to him. And make no mistake, because he struggled in February and had a power outage, some believe a long-term, richer deal is not permissible for Hamilton. But right now, he’s worth every penny and I don’t care about his past history. I don’t care that he was spending money largely on drugs and had become addicted to doing coke. I don’t care that he nearly self-destructed.
The point of the matter is that he’s turned himself around, and deserves much credit for what he has achieved in such a short time, promising a career of longevity and solemnity. This season, Hamilton has 15 homers to lead the American League, gladly delivering for the Rangers, and to be absolutely honest, no one ever imagined Texas competing at the highest level. Well, think again, because Hamilton is playing his best baseball, hotter than most sluggers this season — Pujols, Fielder, Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Mike Stanton, Jayson Werth, Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista, among them.
In many ways, he has solidified his American League MVP candidacy, with a knack for drilling balls over the fence, mastering the art of hitting and changing the dynamics of the game in one swing, all while a recovering addict has dodged the embarrassment of relapses that publicly sent forth controversy. Ron Washington, his manager, is proud to see Hamilton’s impressive record-tying four home runs, including the instant value he has shown with his strength and character, obligated to standing by his team.
As believers all around him glance at his remarkable home run display, Hamilton as opposed to Kemp, who is undoubtedly the best power hitter in the National League, is refreshing our memories of his historic Home Run Derby spectacle. There was also great joyfulness for Hamilton when he received his AL MVP award, doing amazing things with his bat, powering on, staying sober and drug-free. It is a gorgeous scene in Arlington these days, courtesy of an offensive centerpiece to the Rangers fast start that allows them to steamroll past opposing ballclubs on a nightly basis. The future, judging that Hamilton will eventually be locked into an enormous contract for many years, is promising for the Rangers, only by retaining the hottest player in baseball.
It becomes interesting this offseason if you factor in that he will soon enough be the biggest name on the market during free agency this winter, valued as a primary, indispensable major leaguer. It’s hard not to paint Hamilton as the main priority this offseason, ensuring he re-signs for a bloated deal, of course, a signature that will keep him in Texas for at least five to eight years at the most.
It’s not easy, especially if he doesn’t earn the kind of money he’s asking for, to keep around someone as good as Hamilton when he could certainly test the market and receive an offer he can’t refuse elsewhere.
In order to keep him, Texas need to throw him a fastball before someone else does.