This isn’t going to be a lengthy report.
This we know: Josh Hamilton plays the game gracefully, but at times violently. Texas plays the game aggressively on the bases. Josh Hamilton’s body, for reasons people will feel at liberty to speculate on, seems more susceptible to injury than most.
It’s a slightly new equation, one we’re not quite as used to as the instinctive expectation of bad things when Hamilton and an outfield wall collide, but a fractured arm on a head-first slide probably shouldn’t come as any sort of great surprise to us, not when we know what we know, that his style of play – call it aggressive, call it reckless, call it what you want – is going to make the issue of his brittle body something we have to deal with fairly regularly.
These aren’t Ruben Mateo or Dave Dravecky or Bryce Florie injuries. Sometimes the only indication we have that Hamilton is hurt is the look on his face.
But we do brace for that look, a lot. And we’re forced to accept that it’s part of what you get with Josh Hamilton, the most gifted baseball player many of us have ever seen.
So Texas, off to baseball’s best start, will play what’s likely to be almost all of the first half without Hamilton in the lineup and without him in the field. Depth has been a priority for Jon Daniels and his group, which is why “luxuries” like David Murphy as a fourth outfielder (despite having Craig Gentry and Endy Chavez around) and Michael Young as a DH and backup infielder (despite the presence of Mike Napoli) and Chris Davis as a AAA infielder (despite another All-Cactus League spring) never were really luxuries at all, but roster pieces that, in all likelihood, were going to be called into greater service at some point. Contenders don’t go with Craig Worthington full-time when Dean Palmer gets hurt.
Soon enough the Rangers will probably back off of the eight-man bullpen and get another center fielder up here (Gentry or Chavez), and in the meantime Mitch Moreland is not only your starting first baseman but also your fourth outfielder. On days he moves to an outfield corner, Young could take over at first, or Napoli or Davis could, and at some point Adrian Beltre is going to get a day off (defensively, at least) like everyone else has had, leaving either Young or Davis to step in at third base. Texas will manage to put a big league lineup and big league defense out there every day, even in Hamilton’s absence.
(And for what it’s worth, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweets this morning that, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, Texas is “likely to sign Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin today.” But there’s no chance Martin goes straight to the big leagues.)
Ron Washington once said: “My players did not show character. They revealed it.”
I’m not really sure that’s how the expression goes, but we all know what Wash meant. The Rangers are used to rising above all kinds of adversity, and here’s a little more to deal with. It’s not as if Hamilton has carried this team to its blistering start – far from it – but his absence changes things, on offense and on defense and, all told, in the threat Texas poses to that day’s opponent. Still, this club is pretty good at fighting out of a corner, if that’s what this is. Maybe it won’t be.
There’s no point in dissecting the play in yesterday’s top of the first to dispense blame. The decision was in line with how this team plays, a brand of baseball that marks this team and helps make it what it is. I’m not going to sit here and blame the player or the third base coach for the Hamilton bone break any more than I’d blame the center field wall for bruising Hamilton’s ribs. It’s his style, it’s this team’s style, and, as much as we hate it, we have to concede that it’s just another chapter in a book that’s never going to end, as long as Josh Hamilton is a baseball player.