They had the best record in the American League, second best in baseball.
Coming into their house was the team with the worst record in the American League, second worst in baseball.
If that wasn’t enough, the best team in the AL was giving the ball to its best starting pitcher, and maybe the best in baseball in the early going.
While the worst team in the AL was giving the ball to its worst starting pitcher, and one of the worst in baseball early on.
Houston was riding a 10-game win streak.
The last Texas win streak, depending I suppose on how you define “streak,” was September 24-25, 2014.
On those two nights eight months ago, the Rangers beat Houston starter Scott Feldman and then walked off against Oakland reliever Luke Gregerson.
On Monday afternoon, all the talk in baseball was about Houston’s crazy-dominant roll, carried by big power and a revamped bullpen that helped the club to an 18-0 record in games in which they had a lead at any time.
Unless you caught Anthony Andro’s tweet that Texas was 60-102 over its last 162 games.
Which included its 13-3 finish in September.
The Astros hadn’t lost a game started by Dallas Keuchel, the reigning AL Pitcher of the Month, since Ron Washington was the Rangers’ manager.
The Rangers hadn’t won a game started by Ross Detwiler.
Detwiler needed 26 pitches to get through the first inning.
Keuchel struck out the side in the second.
And the third.
But after Detwiler’s shaky first, or actually after his second walk in that first frame, he retired 19 of 23 hitters digging in with 10-game-win-streak swagger, and the Rangers’ 7-8-9 hitters, Robinson Chirinos and Delino DeShields Jr. (coming back from 0-2 to draw Keuchel’s first walk of the game — in the eighth — and just DeShields’s second walk of the season: both off of Keuchel) and Jake Smolinski, digging in with a collective .169/.269/.275 slash, came through big late, which is to say nothing of Kyle Blanks’s crucial and fantastic six-slider at-bat in the top of the ninth, in which he spoiled one of them on 0-1 and two more on 0-2, and Adrian Beltre ran well, and Neftali Feliz, asked to complete the bullpen’s shockingly light six-out assignment, lived low in the zone with a slider that’s getting better and better and touched 96 on the game’s final pitch, and now it’s Tuesday and Houston has an “L1” in the streak column, while the Rangers look to claim an actual win streak for the first time this year, almost as close to Draft Day as it is to Opening Day.
Lunch at Mamacita’s is going to taste real good today.
Texas sends ex-Astro Wandy Rodriguez up against the ex-Ranger Feldman tonight, and maybe the Rangers will get another chance to win late and maybe it will be Gregerson they touch up to do it, and hey, the last time Rodriguez and Feldman teed it up, Texas won, 9-3, and four months later was in a World Series.
Couldn’t predict ball back then, but last night’s outcome probably felt even more unlikely than the June 2010 Rangers winning a pennant.
So . . . . Let’s go.
November 28, 2014: Oakland trades third baseman Josh Donaldson to Toronto for third baseman Brett Lawrie, pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin, and minor league shortstop Franklin Barreto.
As a Rangers fan, that deal made me very, very happy.
But it didn’t stop there, because to make room for the extra two players on the 40-man roster, the A’s designated two players for assignment: former Rangers reliever Josh Lindblom and longtime favorite of mine Kyle Blanks.
And it didn’t stop there, either, because on December 15, the Rangers signed Blanks to a non-roster deal.
And though he homered Friday night against his former A’s teammates, his big Rangers breakout came tonight, again against the club who dumped him in conjunction with what was already a stupid trade, as he went RBI double/single/homer/two-run single/strikeout in an 8-7, walkoff win that doesn’t happen without him and that felt as desperately needed as an early May win can possibly be.
In the grand scheme, this was Shin-Soo Choo’s night, and big credit too to Rougned Odor (and to Robinson Chirinos for narrowly eluding Odor’s deflected shot), but man, I love Kyle Blanks.
And I love that he did this to the team that gave up on him a few months ago.
Small victories, I guess.
Now, for the first time this season:
Win the damn series.
This is the perfect fit for you, even though you may not be the perfect fit for them. This is the one place that might — might — work for you in baseball, and this is happening only because they were open to it. They had plenty of reason not to be.
Hey, man, yeah, you probably need a hug, but you’re not the only one. Your baseball career became a baseball career here, after it had been nothing but a tragedy, and you ushered your way out badly, both on the field and off, and you can bet one of those is less easily forgiven.
This is your last shot. The organization that has shown you the most professional and human support is embracing you again, but you understand the accountability is a multi-faceted thing.
Step up, and apologize. Apologize when the microphones are turned on for the first time, but before that apologize when the clubhouse doors are closed. Make it right.
The Angels couldn’t wait to get rid of you.
Let me rephrase.
The Angels’ owner, who couldn’t wait to exact sweet revenge on the Rangers (Napoli, Beltre) and who didn’t listen to the baseball people he’d hired to make baseball decisions and instead promised you a massively backloaded eighth of a billion dollars with eyes wide open to all the obvious risks given your history, couldn’t wait to get rid of you.
The Angels’ owner will have paid you $42 million to play, and $68 million for you to leave.
Think about that, Josh.
Over this year and the next two, Texas will reportedly pay you less than $7 million, which is about eight cents on the dollar that the Angels, pawning the ring that they put on it, will pay you to play for a division rival.
You have a thousand reasons to be motivated by this gift. That ought to be one of them.
The Union doesn’t have a history of blessing deals in which a player gives up guaranteed money (or in this case, essentially, waives the windfall that coming to a state without income tax would have triggered), here, in exchange for an opt-out that will never be exercised. The Union is apparently blessing this deal. That ought to tell you something.
The Angels could have simply released you, but to them it was worth saving $15 million or so of the $125 million deal to send him to Texas — the one place where the decision could turn into a public relations disaster for their owner — and get nothing in return but that 12 percent write-off. (Not even something like AAA first baseman Trever Adams, a Creighton product whom Angels Assistant GM Scott Servais would probably have liked to bring aboard.)
“Unless the Angels are absolutely convinced Josh Hamilton cannot be an effective hitter,” writes Buster Olney (ESPN), “this deal makes very little sense for them.”
And yet they embraced it, and jumped at this chance to make you a Ranger again.
Your Los Angeles teammates, from Mike Trout to Albert Pujols to C.J. Wilson to David Freese, have all said in the last week or so that they believed in you and believed you were ready to come back and contribute, and would be disappointed to see their club turn you loose.
Your manager was less supportive and less optimistic, at least publicly, and we all know what management thinks.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times: “My reaction to [the] Angels paying Josh Hamilton to play for [the] Rangers is [the] same as Halos team [president John Carpino’s reaction] to MLB’s exoneration of Josh: It defies logic. . . . I did not see the harm in sending Josh Hamilton to AAA for 20 games just to see what he had to offer. [The] Angels think differently.”
Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register: “Arte Moreno was the only one who wanted to bring Josh Hamilton to the Angels. Now he’s the only one who wants to get rid of him. Fitting, isn’t it?
“Chances are, Texas will benefit from Moreno’s arrogance. It must be more difficult for the rational, conscientious fan to cheer for this team now than it was in the winter.”
Moura was referring to the rational, conscientious Angels fan, of course, but there’s going to be a faction of Rangers fans who will be less supportive of this move than you might think. It’s a minority, if you go by the media polls (and for what it’s worth, my email inbox is running about the same ratio of yea to nay), but it’s there. You have something to prove to this fan base, who embraced you more than any fans in baseball ever have, given the way you vocally turned on them when you left for Disneyland.
You’re going to need to address that, today or whenever your very first chance to do that comes.
And here’s the thing: We can talk all day about the ways the Angels have demonstrated how badly they wanted to toss you out, and how much risk they’ve voluntarily swallowed, paying what amounts to around $110 million for two years of playing baseball in their uniform — the flip side is how little risk Texas is taking on. It will be very easy for the Rangers to move on from this experiment, for any reason.
This isn’t a publicity stunt. (Just as Manny Ramirez wasn’t.)
But it’s not a slam dunk for you, either. (Just as it wasn’t for Manny Ramirez.)
Just as it’s on you to make things right with your teammates here, and your fans, it’s on you to rehab your way onto the roster, and play your way into the lineup. You have to produce, or the Rangers will let you go, too, far more painlessly, and at that point baseball is probably a permanently closed chapter for you.
This is going to cost Ryan Rua at-bats when he returns — which could be as soon as the organization feels you’re ready yourself — and maybe Jake Smolinski and Carlos Peguero, but down the road it’s not going to cost Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo. And even if you’re moderately productive, if the Rangers think they’re better off not having you in the clubhouse and the weight room when Mazara and Gallo arrive, well, you probably have an opportunity now to make sure that’s not a factor.
Which is not to say you were ever a bad teammate. This is more about being an example to young baseball players. About 100 percent, every single day.
The Rangers wouldn’t do this if they didn’t think you have the chance to prove something to the Angels and to baseball and to Nomar Mazara.
Clint Hurdle was huge for you when he was hitting coach here in 2010, maybe more so mentally than mechanically. Jeff Banister isn’t Clint Hurdle, but you’re going to see some similarities.
You’ll be around Adrian and Elvis and Colby and Derek and Mitch and Matty again, but there are a whole lot of new players on this team to prove yourself to.
You’ll be around Michael again, too, and you can bet this doesn’t happen if Michael didn’t throw his strong support behind the idea.
You’re going to be around Roy Silver again, and I guess Shayne Kelley or some other accountability partner, and that’s because the Rangers, as always, will do everything they can to support you and pave your path to productivity.
But the greatest duty of accountability is yours.
You were a big part of the greatest Rangers teams ever, but this is not the same team anymore, and you’re not the same player. Everyone accepts that. When this team is healthy again, there will be 15 guys more important to its chances to return to contention than you are. At least.
Right now, Nick Martinez is 100 times more important to this thing than Josh Hamilton.
So much of what the national media is focused on right now is the Angels’ conduct, rather than the Rangers’ decision to take this chance. And that makes sense. This story is more about loss, and subtraction, than it is about anything that anyone has gained.
But you have the chance to change that.
Olney wrote: “[I]t may be that this deal gone awry became so personal for the Angels’ ownership that Arte Moreno just wants Hamilton out of his sight. Which would be somewhat ridiculous, because Hamilton’s history of addiction was hardly a secret. The real possibility that this would take a turn for the worse was always in play. Other teams evaluated Hamilton as a potential target when he was a free agent and ran in the other direction, based on what they heard about his issues. The fact the Angels bid far more for Hamilton than any other team was their mistake.”
And you can compound that, which would be such a beautiful, schadenfreudy baseball thing.
Are you motivated?
Are you thinking about humility today, and how you will communicate it to the fans you once shared so much with before rejecting them?
I’m on record with my support of the idea of bringing you back to Texas, especially given the incredibly minimal risk the club is taking. But it’s not absent of risk, because playing time is finite. At-bats and defensive innings given to one player are taken away from another.
Pudge and Juan and Sunny and Boo all came back toward the ends of their careers, but this isn’t the same. You have a lot to prove here, and if at any point it’s not working out, Texas will move on. That’s not what anybody wants, but it’s always going to be an option.
The day in December 2012 when you decided to leave Texas and go somewhere that lots of people thought could be close to the worst choice possible, I wrote something short and finished it by saying: “He’s just another Los Angeles Angel now.”
If the news rumored to be teed up today comes to fruition, then, as far as I’m concerned, you’re just another Texas Ranger now.
And that’s OK.
This is probably your final shot to contribute to a big league baseball team, and if that’s going to happen then this is the right team.
Make it happen. And first, make it right.
— A Rangers fan
Reports are flying that the Angels and Rangers are working out the final details of a trade that would send Josh Hamilton back to Texas.
Piecing together information from the local and national media, the early indications that the Rangers would be on the hook for $15 million of the remaining $83 million on Hamilton’s contract could be inaccurate — Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports), for one, suggests Hamilton “will relinquish some money” himself and the Rangers, who will send no players to Los Angeles, will “take on LESS than $15 million” as part of this “complex” and “volatile” deal. According to Bob Nightengale (USA Today), the Angels “would still be on the hook for about $68 million, even if Hamilton surrenders some of his payday.”
On the two big gray-area issues there:
Nick Cafardo (Boston Globe) shares this morning that he’s learned that the Players’ Union “would allow [a] salary reduction in [the] Hamilton case if [it] benefits [the] player. Different than [the] A-Rod/Boston case.”
And a source tells Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News) that “the Rangers’ cash outlay amounts to a token amount.”
There’s obviously much that’s unknown at this point, but the part that appears to be rock solid is that Josh Hamilton is about to be a Texas Ranger, again — and with each media report, the picture gets a little clearer on the nature of the risk Texas is taking on, and that risk level now appears to be lower than first believed.
I’ll have a lot more to say about Hamilton’s seemingly imminent return to Texas when we know more.
I’m not really a pack rat, but I do tend to hang onto remnants of my insanities. Stuff I’ve written. A fractured aluminum Easton 33” from high school. The sports pages the day after the Herschel Trade.
A couple Ziplocs full of tickets and badges and other wrinkled and worn residue of the months I spent chasing baseball games in October 2010 and October 2011.
I made lots of reckless decisions those two months, attributable to 35 years of perpetually dashed sports-hopes, and it was the best demonstration of serial irresponsibility ever.
A little more than three months ago, a few days after Carlos Peguero signed and the Blue Jays claimed Matt West, and a few days before the Rangers traded for Yovani Gallardo and then Carlos Corporan, I pulled those Ziplocs off a shelf, printed up some photos from those same two October’s, and took the pile to a frame shop, with a rough idea at best of what I had in mind.
This week, on Monday, a day after the season’s most demoralizing loss and a day before perhaps its most satisfying win, I went to pick up the finished product.
Mixed in among a bunch of perforated cardboard on flimsy stock, printed in three-color separation and marked not by date but by game number and trapped under the glass, planted on a muted green and surrounded by rustic brown, were photos that marked the time in more familiar ways.
There’s Cliff jumping into Bengie’s arms, and there’s Neftali jumping into Bengie’s arms.
Neftali, back when you knew what was going to happen whenever he got the ball, and you couldn’t wait.
There’s Rally Minka and the Pancake House, and Nellie with his hands over his head, and there’s A.J. Burnett with his over his, too, and that was awesome.
There’s the Vlad Pyramid, as the Yankees’ most productive player — not then, but now — took his shuffling walk of shame toward the visitors’ dugout, almost two hours after a six-year-old caught the one big league foul ball he’s caught to this day, in what may have been the greatest win in franchise history.
Nestled among stadium shots and family pics and lanyards and pins and hotel keys, there’s Michael and Mike and a tumbling Miguel, and there’s Adrian, so soaked from his St. Pete beer shower that I think my own clothes reeked of the stuff for days.
There’s Elvis making maybe the greatest important defensive play I’ve ever seen, and Wash with his hands on Derek’s shoulders, minutes before probably the greatest important pitching performance in Texas Rangers history.
Yeah, there’s Wash. And Josh.
And a daughter who was about as old then as her brother is now, which makes those Octobers seem like an eternity ago, considering she’s in high school now.
Actually, it seems like forever since those two fall months for lots of reasons.
Thirty-eight players appeared for Texas in the 2010 and 2011 post-seasons. Only seven are still with the club, not counting the two in the front office. Maybe an eighth is on the verge of coming back.
Nine are retired, and two others are out of work but presumably don’t want to be.
Three are in AAA, three are in Boston, two each are Orioles and Phillies and Angels, one plays in Korea and another is in Mexico.
Those two majestic playoff runs were followed by two more years of 162+, though they ended at 163, and after that was a season that miraculously stopped short of 100 losses, not counting the one involving the last manager you’d ever think had any quit in him walking away from his team with games still on the schedule.
October 2010 and October 2011 seem like a long time ago.
But they’re now on my wall, and I’m in that room, and it doesn’t feel as out of reach. #sappy
There’s Adrian and Derek and I’m not done believing Elvis or Neftali — both still on the growth side of 27 — can refind it. (Hey, the Yankees slugger that Nef froze in Game 6 is back carrying fantasy teams across the land.) Prince is here now, Leonys and Nick and Shawn are showing signs of a new level, we’ve got Roogie and Keone, and Martin — and maybe even Matty — could be making starts earlier on the schedule, along with Derek, than Cliff did five years ago.
And speaking of five years ago, the Rangers were 5-9 and three games back at this point in the 2010 season — a game worse than they are today. They started that 2010 season with a rotation, in order, of Scott Feldman and Rich Harden and converted reliever C.J. Wilson and Asian import Colby Lewis and unproven 24-year-old Matt Harrison, at the time inferior by any measure to the 2015 Mariners rotation of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, and Taijuan Walker, and, yeah, the Rangers’ top four starters are all hurt right now, but outside of King Felix, those other four Seattle starters, in 11 times out, have zero wins and as many quality starts (three) as Nick Martinez has in his three times to the mound.
Yu will be back in a year, and maybe a couple of Chi Chi and Joey and Nomar and Jorge and Jake and Luke beat him here, and let’s give it some more time but Nick might just be doing some ceiling renovation right now.
I’m not sure if it’s those 18 square feet of sports-memory have me overdosing on the Kool Aid right now, or all the awesome that Texas 7, Arizona 1 provided while the basketball team looked like one on the brink of a complete retool, but I’m in a good baseball place right now, grateful forever for 2010 and 2011 and eager to plan, if only in my head for now, what the third frame will eventually look like.
Rangers pitchers faced 37 Mariners hitters yesterday with a lead.
They threw a first-pitch strike 15 times.
Rangers pitchers threw 169 pitches yesterday with a lead.
They threw 93 strikes (55 percent).
Eleven were swinging.
Tanner Scheppers, Keone Kela, and Neftali Feliz:
Five outs. Six walks.
Since lunchtime yesterday, you guys nearly tripled the size of the Julie McGraw Rehabilitation Fund, which has now advanced into $20,000 territory.
Peter Gammons has taken interest in the story as well, sharing yesterday’s report with his national audience on the Gammons Daily website.
Gary has asked if I would pass this message along to the Newberg Report family:
I don’t know how to say thank you to all of the people that have already responded to your special message. If you don’t mind, please let our new friends know that our family is completely overwhelmed with their caring and giving actions. We are all crying and thanking God for these gifts from kind-hearted people who have no idea who we are. They are very special.
My sincerest thanks to you and all your loyal readers/friends.
I’m really proud to be part of this community of phenomenally good people. This baseball town.
Speaking of which . . . .
Tim Cowlishaw (Dallas Morning News) thinks Texas should consider trading for Josh Hamilton. Consider relieving the Los Angeles Angels of the sorely overpriced asset they have vocally and coldly abandoned and can’t wait to dispose of. Consider paying something like $10 million to Hamilton annually even though a shoulder injury and an unclear substance abuse situation make the timing (if not the concept) of his return questionable. Consider adding another injury issue to a roster full of those, and having no real idea what he’s got left as a ballplayer.
I’m on record: I’m open to the idea.
(August 2013 tweet: “I’d be tempted [to take Hamilton back if the Angels paid half of the contract].”)
(October 2014 tweet and Facebook post: “How much money would you ask LAA to subsidize on Hamilton’s 3/83 to take him back [assuming something like (Jake) Smolinski + (Jon) Edwards in return]?”)
I really wouldn’t want to trade Shin-Soo Choo for him (something Cowlishaw and others have trial-ballooned), and I don’t really see why Los Angeles would want to do that, either.
And $10 million a year might be a little steep for Texas to take on for such an unpredictable commodity — but somewhere there’s a number that makes the risk and its obvious upside worth assuming, and that makes it palatable for the Angels to play ball, since otherwise it sounds like they might be moving towards a straight release and 100 percent financial obligation.
As for the return, Smolinski and Edwards are more central to the plan here today than they were in October, but something like that? I can be persuaded.
But we’re getting way ahead of things here. This seems like an enormous longshot.
Fascinating to think about, though.
In the meantime, Keone Kela is going to take the mound in Seattle, probably tonight but maybe tomorrow. He didn’t come into pro ball with the fanfare of the first-rounder Hamilton or the second-rounder Smolinski, but his path to the big leagues has been far more linear than it was for either of the outfielders or the outfielder-turned-pitcher Edwards, and right now he’s on a short list that includes Prince Fielder, Nick Martinez, and Shawn Tolleson, a list of the Rangers players who have surged out of the gate a week and a half into the young season.
When Kela strides to the Safeco Field mound this weekend, his family will probably be in the stands. Hundreds of thousands more will be watching on TV, including Julie and Gary McGraw — the first two members of the Rangers family to believe in Kela — 200 miles away in Gaston, Oregon, plus a whole lot of their new friends back here in Texas, watching the same thing, even if through different lenses.
This is Gary McGraw.
He lives in Gaston, Oregon, and watches high school and college baseball games. In Oregon. And in Idaho. And in Washington State. And in Montana. And in Wyoming. And in Canada. And in Alaska.
He’s spent 26 years in pro ball, the first of which he spent playing in the Idaho Falls A’s outfield alongside 17-year-old Oakland 15th-rounder Jose Canseco, and the last 14 of which he’s spent scouting high school and college ballplayers for the Texas Rangers.
I found a bio on McGraw in which he says: “I have one hobby: my family and anything they are involved or interested in.” He didn’t mention wiffle ball, an apparent passion.
This is Keone Kela. He turns 22 years old today.
In 2012, Gary McGraw pounded his fist on the table on Draft Day – Gary was wearing cowboy boots and a sport coat that day, which I know because a number of his colleagues say he’s worn cowboy boots and a sport coat to every meeting he’s ever been to, and that it’s been the same pair of cowboy boots and the same sport coat every single time for more than 20 years – until Texas called Kela’s name in the 12th round.
McGraw looked past Kela’s challenging background and the 91-95 velo he flashed at Everett Community College and believed there was more.
This is Julie McGraw.
She was an athlete at Portland State University, just like Gary. They were college sweethearts. They got married in 1982, a few months after the summer when Gary hit one Idaho Falls homer, and Canseco hit two.
They’ve been married since, and have three kids, Jamie and Jessica and Jake.
Julie has been a longtime volleyball coach in Oregon, at both the high school and club levels.
Julie had a massive stroke while coaching her club volleyball team at a tournament three months ago. Julie and Gary’s daughter Jessica prefers not to say her Mom “suffered” the stroke, or even “survived” the stroke. Jessica prefers different wording.
The battle has been formidable one – you can read a bit about it by clicking the link in the previous sentence – but the athlete and the coach in Julie has responded and competed and fought, and she’s winning.
There are all kinds of challenges ahead, one of which is financial. The family’s insurance coverage will be exhausted long before Julie’s medical attention and rehabilitation will be, and a GoFundMe account has been set up by friends of the McGraw’s to help the family. Among the things they are hoping to be able to do is modify their home to make it wheelchair-accessible and buy a wheelchair-accessible van, and to secure 24-hour care as long as Julie needs it.
The account has raised over $7,500 in 11 days. The goal is $200,000.
Julie has coached hundreds of kids. Gary has given nearly as many an opportunity to play baseball professionally, and he’s also known for the energy he puts into mentoring young scouts, helping to give them their own chance to advance their careers.
They’ve both given so much to many people – including, in one sense, you and me.
If you’re in a position to give something back, and feel like doing that, it would be an awesome thing.
Two and a half years ago, Josh Hamilton left. He said at his glitzy Disney presser in Anaheim, which starred the slugger and his wife, that the Rangers’ decision not to lock him up before he shopped around as a free agent was a “blessing in disguise” that led him to the Angels, and he added: “I’m so excited to hear an organization say we’re happy we got you, no matter what the risk is.”
No matter the risk.
Last night’s loss wasn’t the worst of the young Rangers season, under any objective measure, but it still bothers me a lot this morning, and not just because it busted up the L-W-L-W-L-W-L sequence that teed the game up or because Ross Detwiler couldn’t make his team’s early offensive explosion stand up. There’s schadenfreude, and then there’s schadenfreude, and I wish a whole lot of failure on the Los Angeles organization now, more than I ever have.
I admit that that December 2012 press conference gave me a good amount of closure on what was an imperfect but extraordinary career in Texas for one of the two or three best baseball players I’ve ever watched play. The things he said — and the things Katie said — made it fairly easy to feel OK about his departure, even to a division rival.
But now I feel bad for the guy, who’s battling a sickness I’m not going to pretend to understand, and whose organization — the baseball team that gave him an eighth of a billion dollars to help them find the playoffs again, “no matter what the risk is” — is doing everything it can to blame him for its own badly miscalculated decision to assume that unmistakable risk.
After that introduction to the Los Angeles press, which was nationally televised, I wrote a little bit about that closure it gave me:
But when he said at his Hollywood premiere yesterday that it would have been easy and comfortable to stay in Texas, and that sometimes you just need to be taken out of your comfort zone so you can impact a whole lot of lives in a different place, well, yeah.
It was a blessing in disguise, he said on Saturday, that Texas didn’t jump out early in the winter to sign him (which his wife is “so glad” about).
I’m not sure I’m buying the disguise part. Maybe “time to move on” really was a post-Thanksgiving revelation, a “blessing” that came to him masquerading as not-enough-love. Maybe none of that occurred to him until the last few weeks.
He made $28.2 million in five years here. He’ll make $125 million in five years there. I’m not going to say those numbers will end up looking backwards in terms of the production he provides, but I’m sorta confident about which team will have gotten the better deal.
I won’t boo him when he comes to Arlington in April.
But I won’t stand up and cheer his return, either.
He’s just another Los Angeles Angel now.
Except he’s not even that anymore.
The Angels didn’t put a locker up for Hamilton in spring training, while he was in Houston rehabbing his shoulder and possibly dealing with another substance abuse relapse.
(We still don’t know who leaked the relapse story. According to Sports Illustrated, the players’ union “condemned anonymous leaks of Hamilton’s relapse, saying they were ‘cowardly’ and undermined the ‘integrity of our collectively bargained agreements and in some instances have been wholly inaccurate,’” but MLB Commissioner reportedly declined to investigate whether it was the Angels themselves who released the confidential information.)
They didn’t put a locker up for Hamilton this spring, and they haven’t put one up in Anaheim, either. They needed the space, of course. Plus they’ve apparently pulled all Hamilton merchandise from their stadium gift shop.
The Angels reacted with nothing but indignation when it was announced last week that Hamilton wouldn’t be suspended by the league for his relapse. If he’d been a .305/.363/.549 hitter with the Angels, averaging 28 homers and 101 RBI a season with them like he did in Texas, they’d be celebrating the due process that kept him on the field and praising him for self-reporting his apparent slip.
But .255/.316/.426 with 16 and 62 looks a lot different, especially at more than four times the AAV, and instead the Angels said publicly that the ruling “defie[d] logic” and, asked if he would play another game for them over the three years that remain on the contract the club aggressively offered him, owner Arte Moreno (who reportedly hasn’t spoken to Hamilton in six months) responded, simply: “I will not say that.”
And that’s apparently because the Angels — who denied at the time of the December 2012 signing that Hamilton’s contract contained any language holding the club harmless in the event of a drug relapse — are now claiming that the contract did contain provisions along those lines after all and may try to enforce them . . . even though the players’ union points out that any such provisions, even if contractually bargained between team and player, are trumped by the CBA and unenforceable.
“We do have recourse,” Moreno told reporters late last week, adding — ironically — “when you make an agreement, you need to stand up.”
Bill Shaikin (Los Angeles Times), calling a “divorce [between the Angels and Hamilton] inevitable,” suggests that aside from the “nasty fight” that the Angels organization could pick with the union, the club could freeze the player out once his shoulder is sound by parking him on the bench. “Hamilton would get his full salary,” Shaikin points out, “but Moreno would make his displeasure clear with every lineup card in which the outfield was manned by three other guys. The union already is prepared for this possibility.”
Hamilton’s teammate Hector Santiago, a veteran lefthander who spent only 2014 with the 33-year-old outfielder, told Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register: “It’s weird for me. This is my ninth season and it’s the first time I’ve seen someone on the DL not in the clubhouse. I have no idea (why). That’s why it’s such a weird thing. When we go to Houston [this coming weekend,] is he allowed in our clubhouse? I feel like he’s part of the team, so why isn’t he here?”
There are reports that Hamilton “is not expected” to visit the visitors’ clubhouse when the Angels are in Houston, where Hamilton is still rehabbing and staying at a friend’s house. Manager Mike Scioscia told reporters “hopefully we’ll connect with him face-to-face” but “seemed to have no idea whether that would happen.” One Angels official told Mike DiGiovanna (Los Angeles Times) that Hamilton had “not yet made any overtures to [the] club about stopping by [the] clubhouse during [the] Astros series.”
I don’t know the answer to Santiago’s question of whether Hamilton is allowed in the Angels’ clubhouse, but would you stop by if you were him, given what the organization has said loudly and on the record? Would you make overtures? Would you feel welcome?
The Angels expressed their level of support of Hamilton and what he’s going through by not having enough space for a locker in the room that belongs to the players. They’ve made it so a fan in Anaheim can’t show his or her support by buying a new jersey or T-shirt with his name on it. They’ve taken his banner down from the main entrance at Angel Stadium.
C.J. Wilson (whose banner was also taken down, following a season that the Angels must have felt was unworthy of the money they decided to promise him) told the Los Angeles press that there’s tension in the room about the Hamilton situation, adding: “It doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built — it seems like a fairly contentious situation. . . . No one is talking to us about it. We’re supposed to stay out of the loop. But it’s fairly obvious what their intentions are.”
Wilson is the Angels’ player representative. He was voted into the position by his teammates.
While Angels players may want to see their struggling teammate in the clubhouse, there are obviously others in that organization not so hot on the idea, having taken every step possible to distance themselves from the player and expressing outrage that he wasn’t suspended (which would have relieved the club of some portion of the $83 million they’re still on the hook for).
If Los Angeles screwed up in its assessment of the risk and evaluation of the player and the determination of the contract it was willing to obligate itself to pay, then wear it. Don’t dump on the player and complain that you can’t abandon him financially as you have in every other sense. Assumption of risk.
It’s really disappointing if I’m an Angels fan, or an Angels player.
I’m guessing it’s disgusting and pathetic to a lot of the rest of us.
The level of support Los Angeles is showing sends a firm message not only to its young players, and to future free agent targets, but also to the fan base the club surely will expect loyalty from when the team hits its next dry spell, which may be a year or two away but can’t come soon enough for me.
I half-jokingly suggested on Facebook a couple days ago that if the Rangers happened to have shelves of Hamilton merchandise packed away in storage that they should box it all up and donate it to Los Angeles-area shelters. That will never happen, because the Rangers have too much decency to show another organization up.
Texas would never remove a player’s locker, or pull his merchandise or banner, regardless of what he was rehabbing from.
Aside from the good old competitiveness of wanting your team to win every time it takes the field — one of those things that makes sports great — I don’t think I’ve ever wanted so badly to see another team lose. And it’s because of something, sadly, that runs completely counter to the thing that may make sports greater than anything else, at least for me, and that’s the meaning and the power of team, a concept that should run not only horizontally, but vertically as well.
It can’t get worse.
That was awesome!
Well, yeah, it got worse, but now it really can’t get worse.
That was awesome!
It got worse.
T minus 157.
I don’t know, either.