Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Josh Hamilton Leads Rangers for Repeat

Peter Gammons wrote a wonderful piece on how Josh Hamilton has inspired a former number one pick and addict, Jeff Allison. It's a great story as only Peter Gammons can write it. With Josh Hamilton, his past will always be a part of the story, and his past also leads to the real fear that he can always fall again. Every indication is that Hamilton has his life under control and while we all pray that is the case, as long as he plays for the Texas Rangers, he will lead that team as they begin their run to defend their American League title.

Much has been written about the Rangers this off season. They didn't get Cliff Lee to stay. They signed Adrian Beltre and then we have all been obsessed with what's going to happen with Michael Young. But the real story for the Texas Rangers is Josh Hamilton, who if he can stay healthy, is the best player in the American League. And the bad news for the rest of the league is that Hamilton, at age 29, should be at the peak of his powers.

Of course, if you are talking about Josh Hamilton and not talking about his drug past, you have to talk about his injuries. People wonder whether Hamilton's past is a part of his injury-riddled present. That seems to be a difficult argument to make. What we do know is that Hamilton has missed significant time in every season except 2008. That season, he drove in 130 runs. And Hamilton is a much better player now than he was in 2008, which was his first full season after breaking in with the Reds the year before.

Instead, Hamilton seems a lot like Larry Walker. Walker, when he was healthy, was simply a brilliant ball player. But his style of play simply led him to miss a boat load of games over the course of his career. Hamilton seems a lot like Walker. Certainly from a talent standpoint, the two are very similar. What the Rangers have to hope for is that Hamilton can play 155 games. Until he can put a couple of those types of seasons together back to back, there will always be a question of injury.

Baseball needs Hamilton to be healthy because he simply can do things others can't. His homer against the Yankees in the ALCS was amazing. He was fooled by the pitch, his front leg and hips were already gone but somehow he got the head of the bat on the ball and hit it out of the park. Josh Hamilton is the best player, with more pure talent than any player this Fan has seen since Barry Bonds.

As Peter Gammons wrote, President Bush said we all love a reclamation project. And as such, Josh Hamilton is our favorite story in baseball. If Jeff Allison can make it to the major leagues, he'll be another favorite. We root for guys who have overcome the depths of despair to succeed using the talent they were born with. Baseball needs Josh Hamilton and it needs him healthy. The Rangers need him that way too. Because if he is healthy, the Rangers are clearly better than anyone else in the American League West.

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