The Texas Rangers released outfielder Josh Hamilton over the weekend, ending what has been a roller coaster career.
Dear Josh Hamilton, I’d like to start by saying “Thank you” for all that you’ve done for the Texas Rangers and their fans. While I don’t expect to speak for all of the fanbase, I do know that there are a lot out there that feel this way. There’s a lot left to say, but understand that this letter comes from respect and gratitude for what you have tried to do as a player.
Most of the time, you made us incredibly happy. I remember that 2008 Home Run Derby. The league was just beginning to know you and you went out and put on a spectacular show. Those 28 home runs in the first round were sensational.
These weren’t little dinky home runs that just barely cleared the fence. They were outright Ruthian in how majestic and towering they were. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing that night. And in that first round, it seemed as if you never tired. But you did, showing that you were indeed, human. Although Justin Morneau went on to take home the trophy, almost everyone considered you the real winner.
That regular season, you went on to smash 32 home runs and drive in a league-leading 130 runs. It became clear then that the Rangers had something special in you. You seemed to handle it well, too.
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We’d see you at ballgames, talking to little kids, high-fiving some and rubbing them on top of the head. It was clear that you genuinely loved your fans. You were our Superman and man, did we love you.
By 2010, the baseball world was familiar with you. Although injuries had brought you back down to earth the year before, you went on a tear in 2010. With another 32 home runs (a recurring number in your career), 100 RBIs and your astounding .359 batting average, you ran away with the American League Most Valuable Player award.
At that point, you had fans at every ballpark. But us Rangers fans, we knew you belonged to us. Not in a possessive way, but more like that favorite uncle that always made me feel special. Sure, he’d always treat my friends well and make them laugh. But at the end of the day, there was that pride in knowing, but he’s MY uncle. That’s the sort of feeling we’d get watching you play.
There came an extra pride in watching you terrorize the Yankees in the 2010 American League Championship Series. Those guys had tormented the Texas Rangers for so long. And like the big brother that had seen enough of the bullying, you went in and smacked them around to the tune of a .350 batting average and four home runs. You got the well-deserved ALCS MVP for it, too.
Then came 2011. Even though most Texas fans don’t like recalling that World Series loss, you weren’t part of the problem. In fact, it was you in that fateful game six that hit what most thought was going to be the most famous home run in Rangers history.
Your two-run homer in the top of the 10th off Jason Motte looked like it was a deal-sealer. It’s not your fault though, that the bullpen and defense fell apart in the following half inning. You did what you could, but it was too little, too late. And even though you’d go 1/4 with a double and an RBI in game seven, there was just no way Texas was going to overcome what had happened the night before. Yet our Superman was still flying high.
The first ending
In 2012, something magical happened. You were already a spectacular player. But for the first half of that season, you played out of this world. You hit .308 with 27 home runs and 75 RBIs before the All-Star break that year and the talk of your second AL MVP seemed like your destiny.
I remember that night on May 8 when you took Baltimore by storm, crushing four home runs. What most may not remember is that the first two came off the great Jake Arrieta. Before the midpoint of that season, you looked like a man among boys.
But then there was a change. Things fell apart in the second half and Superman seemed to find his kryptonite. As quickly as we fell in love with you, we fell out of love just as fast.
Things were not going well. It suddenly looked as if you didn’t care. The fans noticed, and they got vocal about it. Something about Ocular Keratitis began surfacing after too many energy drinks, and the whole tobacco addiction problem did, too.
Then the team began feeling it, which really hurt the fans. Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington got on to you in that final series against Oakland for missing a fly ball and you just seemed to laugh. That hurt us, Josh. It saddened us. We needed our Superman to fly high again.
The second ending
However, things didn’t go as you had planned in Anaheim. So, it didn’t take long for you to come back to the Texas Rangers organization.
Like a Hollywood storyline, the superhero returned home and was going to rescue the city again. And although you had a few more moments of greatness, things were never quite the same.
The hard living from your early years began to take a toll and our Superman could no longer fly. No faster than a speeding locomotive anymore, and now unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Superman was a broken man.
While many fans remained hurt, most of us understand. But there are still a few things left unsaid and I think it’s best to get it out now.
I’ll just come out and say it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that things got ugly there for a while. I’m sorry for the part the fans played in this. We never really took the time to look deep inside and see that you have your own struggles. This goes beyond the Texas Rangers.
It’s easy to cast blame on the athlete, especially when they’re hurting. We have no problems as fans pointing fingers and casting blame on the person we were praising just days before.
But we as fans are unfamiliar with the spotlight. We don’t know the hurts and struggles and pain that comes with the life of professional athletics. Fans have no concept for the most part of every word, every step, every move being documented for all the world to see.
So I’m sorry. I’m sorry for taking what was likely a personal decision for you, personally. While I hated seeing you go to Anaheim, I hated it even worse seeing what happened to your career afterward.
If some of the rumors we’re hearing are true, you’ll be retiring soon. Whether that happens or not, I wish you the best. Regardless of the path you take from here, may it be full of success and happiness. Life on this planet is too short to sit and hold grudges. This is especially true when it comes to sports. At the end of the day, it’s just sports.
May your later years end up even better than your baseball years. I wish your daughters the very best. I hope they grow into amazing young women that make you incredibly proud.
Finally, thank you. Thank you for giving back to the city, for making us happy in those moments and for playing with pride for your team. While this isn’t true of every Texas Rangers fan, I can speak for a lot of us when I say, “we love you and we forgive you.”