Josh Hamilton - The Most Talented Player In Major League Baseball.
There ARE those who come back."I'm a drug addict," says Hamilton, who once deliberately burned his prized left hand with four lit cigarettes in a rage. "It's not terminal, but there is no cure. It's hell on earth. It's a constant struggle. And it's going to be like that for the rest of my life." -a quote from USA TODAY 2006.
But lets jump forward to the year 2010: Time and again this year we proud Texans have got to hear Thomas Allen Grieve, aka, "Mr. Ranger," our wonderful and wise telecaster and former General Manager exclaim,
"Boy, I just don't know how to describe what you're seeing from Josh Hamilton this year."
This was after the first time I'd ever seen a man six feet four inches and two hundred thirty five pounds who was a fast enough base runner to score from second base. . . .on a play where a ground ball didn't leave the infield. The second time I ever saw such a thing. . .it was Josh Hamilton as well.
Team President, and a baseball legend who's statistics and longevity will probably never be matched, Nolan Ryan, described Josh Hamilton as a modern day Mickey Mantle. The comparison is absolutely fair and accurate and in many ways. Josh Hamilton, like the Hall of Fame Mantle, is a five tool player; which means he can run, field, throw, hit, and hit for power. Hamilton, like Mantle, also plays the superstar position of center field-one of the most demanding jobs in all professional sports. The only thing Mantle had that Hamilton doesn't, is that Mickey Mantle could switch hit.
Tonight, as the Texas Rangers lost the first game of the American League Championship Series I was struck by another comparison between players-that of Alex(A-ROD) Rodriguez, and Josh Hamilton, and how vastly different the careers of those two individuals, of comparable talent have gone. Hamilton, by the way, lined a bullet into the right field bleachers in his first at bat-if someone tried to bare hand that thing, then they've probably got broken fingers right about now.
Talent and money, A-Rod and Josh Hamilton bring up and stir up the imagination on those two topics, but in very different ways. A-rod, and that quarter billion dollar contract that he was signed to down here in Texas years ago; and Josh. . . . .who blew four million dollars on crack cocaine and alcohol. Anyone who thinks that it would be impossible for them to blow four million dollars is simply a person who has never smoked crack cocaine.
It's really that simple, and should you doubt this-then head over to the poor side of town, go into the convenience store, get yourself a "brown bag special," find the group of poor, black boys on the street corner, score-and talk to me in a few years. You too are eligible, but you'll probably never get a four million dollar signing bonus in your time, for whatever it is that you do; and you probably aren't someone about to get out of public school. . . who's getting that kind of cash.
While Alex has been a steroid user in the past and provided himself with an amazing set of statistics, and started from a young age-he's so very un-inspirational that he's pathetic, in his own way; and will always have his career marred by the fact that he cheated. Right is right if nobody is doing it, and wrong is wrong if everyone is doing it. Josh Hamilton, clean and sober, is the most frequently drug tested player in the history of Major League Baseball, and though his late start will probably preclude him from ever reaching the Hall of Fame-his story and personal triumph over his addictions are real life feats that the hallowed hall isn't big enough to contain.
It's true, I could talk about last season, or last off-season; and the elephant in the room that caused Josh to seemingly have a poor year. It's also true that last season's version of Josh Hamilton was only a shadow of this years version, or the version that presented itself in 2008. Hey, you can get those pictures off the net. I'll admit right here that I had one imported to this hub, but I deleted it. I simply have too much respect for Josh Hamilton to pick at scabs, and re-open wounds like that. Think, if you will, of the great, supremely talented players such as Daryll Strawberry, or his relative Dwight Gooden-two who had the world on their plates, and lost it. Sure, Dwight had some comeback success, and Darryl gave it a try, and failed. Who are you to judge? Let me answer THAT ONE for you. You are nobody to judge them.
Still, I think of Mickey Mantle, the legend who, after it was all said and done, admitted to being an alcoholic who wasted a large part of his gift, drinking it up with Billy Martin. I wonder if Mickey were around today, what he would have to say about Josh. I wonder if he'd realize, and admit that even though Josh, with his late start, and troubled beginning. . .that Josh is truly the amazing one. Crack cocaine is a monster that very few alcoholics could compare to their monster, so large and frightening it is that few living souls know of a monster that size.
Truly, I don't care what you think of America's Pastime, Major League Baseball, Football, or any professional sport. I do not care should you consider all professional athletes overpaid beefcakes who are wasting their lives pursuing the unimportant whilst you while away your time trying to improve the world. I truly do not care if you consider professional sports a great distraction from Philosophy, philanthropy, and what ills our nation or our planet.
Here's what is important to me. I want you to root not for my Texas Rangers this post season, I'll do plenty of that. I want you to look at Josh Hamilton in uniform and understand that we live in a world and a nation where fiction can not touch reality. I want you to know that Josh Hamilton is a man who demons tremble in the wake of. Josh Hamilton doesn't just hit baseballs five hundred feet, he slays dragons.