It is easy to understand why Josh Hamilton would have been considered one of the premier free agents after the 2012 season. He had made five consecutive All-Star games with the Texas Rangers, winning three Silver Slugger awards and an MVP. Including his injury plagued 2009 season, Hamilton averaged 28 home runs and 101 RBI while producing a .305/.363/.549 batting line. Just based off of the statistics alone, Hamilton should have been one of the top free agents that year.
However, while there are red flags with any free agent, Hamilton’s red flags were even larger. Far beyond the injury risk that Hamilton was anyway, he had his relapses with drug and alcohol abuse, even with the Rangers assigning someone to him to make sure that he stayed on the right path.
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When he was signed by the Los Angeles Angels, it was not a surprise that another team would take a chance on him, but rather that he was still paid like a top of the market player. As shocking as that five year, $124 Million contract was at the time, Hamilton has not exactly lived up to expectations. He has struggled in Los Angeles, producing a .255/.316/.426 batting line with 31 home runs while dealing with the inevitable injuries.
The offseason, Hamilton revealed that he again had a relapse and is currently seeking treatment for his addictions. It was ruled that Hamilton cannot be suspended for this latest setback, meaning that the Angels are going to continue to pay his contract. Yet, it was revealed that Arte Moreno and the Angels do have language in the contract that could allow them to terminate the contract if Hamilton was not “first-class physical condition.” Likewise, they sought to protect themselves if he was mentally or psychically affected by his substance abuses.
While this promises to be quite the battle between the Angels and Major League Baseball against Josh Hamilton and the Player’s Union, should Moreno decide to pursue this further, it is one that the Texas Rangers managed to avoid. Yes, Hamilton had his issues, but the Rangers were able to work around them and keep him relatively clean during his tenure.
Would these issues have occurred if Hamilton remained in Texas? No one can truly say. Addiction, in all of its forms, is a painful disease that can strike at any time. Did the bright lights of Los Angeles, and the high expectations of the contract, coupled with Hamilton’s struggles during the American League Divisional Series, lead to these latest issues? This is truly one bullet that the Texas Rangers have managed to dodge.
Regardless of how everything ends with the Angels and Josh Hamilton, what is truly important is that he gets the help that he needs. Baseball should be secondary right now, and if the Angels do succeed in terminating Hamilton’s contract, hopefully he can end up on a team that can help him keep his life together. A team such as the Texas Rangers, perhaps.