Josh Hamilton returned to the lineup a few nights ago against the Padres on September second, after yet another trip to the disabled list. It was his first game since August 15th, as knee and lower body issues have become a constantly recurring occurance for Hamilton, keeping him out of many games. Against the Padres and in the series opener against the Angels, he got one at bat in each game, getting a hit against San Diego. His role as a reinforcement will be much different from what he has been doing over the last few years.
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The Rangers first acquired Hamilton from the Reds after the 2007 season. His first year in the big leagues after being let go by the Rays for substance issues was a good one. He hit .292 with 19 homeruns in Cincinnati, and in the offseason the Rangers sent Edison Volquez to the Reds for Hamilton. Both of them were All-Stars in 2008. But for Hamilton, he had arrived. After nearly throwing away his career he finally started to show the potential that made him the #1 overall pick. In 2010 he hit .359 and 32 dingers on his way to winning AL MVP. Since then, he has been thought of as a franchise player. From 2008-2012 he was one of the best position players in all of baseball. He hit a career high 43 homeruns in 2012, but do to a relapse with alcohol and some bad outfield defense, the Rangers let him leave in free agency that offseason. The Angels thought they were getting a franchise player when they signed him to a seven year, $126 million contract, but they were wrong.
His first year as an Angel in 2013 his homerun total dropped by more than 50% down to 21 and his average dropped from .285 to .250. After a subpar first year, in 2014 things began to really unravel for Hamilton. He played in just 89 games and only hit 10 homeruns. Injuries seemed to be holding him back as he fell out of favor in the Angels organization.
May 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) follows through on his two run walk off double against the Boston Red Sox during a baseball game at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
When he was brought back to the Rangers early this season, I’m sure many Rangers fans like myself were skeptical. I wondered if he had anything left, and I was still reluctant to forgive the “not a baseball town” comment. But I was able to move past that when I saw him hit a walk-off two run single off Koji Uehara on May 31st. He was back, and still had something left in that bat.
Injuries have been a problem for him throughout his career. It was part of the reason the Rays got rid of him–he couldn’t stay on the field because of that as well as the substance abuse issues. For that, I doubt he plays in the outfield again this season if ever again. Five years ago he played with reckless abandon in the outfield, routinely putting his body on the line. But over time, all his body has been through seems to have caught up to him. But he can still swing that bat, which makes him a valuable asset both as a pinch hitter and as a DH. He has shown an ability to get hits in pressure situations before–he hit a two run homerun to put Texas ahead in game six of the 2011 World Series, a lead which they unfortunately could not hold, but take the game against the Red Sox I mentioned earlier, against one of the best closers in the game, he still came up big. There’s few guys I’d want over Hamilton if I needed a hit in a big moment. Not requiring him to play in the outfield will keep him fresh and allow him to put all his focus on hitting. He will provide lineup protection and versatility to the lineup, both of which will be needed if the Rangers are to get back to the playoffs. He may not be “the guy” anymore, but he doesn’t need to be. The role he has will suit him quite well if I say so myself.