Josh Hamilton’s Impending Return Awakens Painful Memories


I’ve gone through a big range emotions since learning about Josh Hamilton’s impending return to the Texas Rangers. When word first got out on Friday about Josh Hamilton, this was my first thought.

As the weekend progressed, and as acceptance began to sink in, I’ve come off my hard line stance–a bit.  I’ve entertained the notion that it will provide a boost to a weak-hitting team (team BA, .211).

I’ve tried to talk myself into the idea that maybe this town is the perfect fit for him.  I’ve reasoned that maybe they’ll have a Johnny Narron-type figure in Josh’s life to help him stay on the straight-and-narrow.

This is what we know:  A known head case prone to lapses in behavior and backsliding into destructive habits is on his way back.

More from Sports Dallas Fort-Worth

First and foremost, allow me to say that I am not judging Mr. Hamilton based on the demons he fights daily.  Addiction is a terrible disease that many of us have seen on a first hand basis.  While I am mostly against him donning a Rangers uniform again, it has nothing to do with his daily struggle.

What a lot of us are still sore about is the lead-up to the parting.

I think I can speak for a lot of Rangers fans that weren’t even angry about his comments regarding the DFW metroplex and how it’s not a “baseball town“.  Divorces can be acrimonious and awkward.  Things get said.  Feelings get hurt.

But there was the misplayed fly ball in Oakland in October 2012 that earned him a berating in front of the team from then-manager, Ron Washington. The nonchalant look on his face stirred my ire, for sure.  By that time, it seemed more and more like a player who just didn’t get it.

More from Texas Rangers

There were several apathetic three-pitch at-bats where he would flail wildly and look like a guy who wanted to be anywhere but the batter’s box.

There were slumps that were explained away with ludicrous answers and caffeine-induced poor eyesight.

After a while, most of us were at a point of frustration that could be summed up with a commonly used phrase:  “It’s always something with this guy.”

Incidents like these were such a departure from the player we all fell in love with during those two magical seasons in 2010 and 2011.  To paraphrase Rocky’s manager, Mickey, he was a greasy-fast southern tank.  He played with reckless abandon.  He hit towering shots into the upper deck.  He made it look so easy.

It made the fall from grace tough to watch.  The tumble was exacerbated by what we perceived to be a growing lack of interest and an increase in excuse-making.

Admittedly, there was a large measure of Schadenfreude on my part in seeing the Angels and their fans deal with their mercurial star and his eccentricities.

When he went to California in 2013, it was with a sigh of relief and a sentiment of “Well, he’s your problem now”.

Admittedly, there was a large measure of Schadenfreude on my part in seeing the Angels and their fans deal with their mercurial star and his eccentricities.

The tide has now turned, and Josh Hamilton is set to return to the scene of the crime to try and find past glory.

What I ultimately hope to see is him getting the help he needs in order to become something resembling the one man gang he was for this club, especially in 2010 and 2011.

Keep in mind that he was up for sainthood at that time.  It’s not for nothing that he hit what would’ve been the championship-clinching home run in Game 6 in 2011.  Nelson Cruz’s misplay of David Freese’s liner into right was bad enough.

To this day, I still get a cramp in my gut thinking about it.  But without that, there wouldn’t have been this:  A majestic shot into the cool St. Louis October night that should have sealed the deal.

Alas, it did not.

David Freese will forever be to Rangers fans what Bucky Dent was to Red Sox fans.

There’s been a measure of emotional torture going back and finding some of these clips.  Like a bad breakup, you try and remove all reminders, if only to blunt the pain.

I’ve said this more than once to friends and family, but there have been maybe two girls that broke my heart as badly as the Rangers did in 2011.  Maybe.  To have come so maddeningly close to validating not only his career, but that of Ron Washington’s, Ian Kinsler’s, or any other member of that team only to fall short still stings.  It still resonates.

That’s why Josh Hamilton’s return–to probably a lot of us–seems like a desperate stab at reclaiming lost magic.

Maybe the Josh Hamilton story still has another few chapters we’re not privy to.  Time will tell.

Until then, though, it just seems like a short-term solution on a team with some real long-term problems.

Next: Texas, Perfect Fit For Josh Hamilton