Josh Hamilton and the Texas Rangers were in the midst of contract extension talks before the 2012 MLB season began. Those negotiations came to an abrupt end when Hamilton suffered an alcohol relapse in mid-February. Tuesday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles changed all of that. Hamilton became the 16th player in MLB history to launch four home runs in a single game. The troubled outfielder went 5 for 5, adding a double and 8 RBI to his impressive feat. Not yet twelve hours later, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported that the Rangers have reopened negotiations with the talented lefty. You can’t blame the Rangers for their hesitation in signing Josh to an expensive long-term deal. Hamilton’s indiscretions have been well documented, not to mention his history of injury – he hasn’t had more than 518 plate appearances since the 2008 season.
Hamilton was drafted first overall in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays and was quickly labeled the “Natural”, but failed to see MLB action until the 2007 season with the Cincinnati Reds. While in the minor leagues Hamilton battled drug and alcohol addiction after a car accident he was in with his family in 2001. He spent many years in and out of baseball, but was mostly sidelined dealing with personal issues. In 2008, “Hambone’” – his beloved high school nickname – locked up the starting center fielding job with the Texas Rangers after an impressive spring training. Since appearing on the cover of the June 2008 edition of Sports Illustrated, an issue which chronicled his major league comeback, the 31-year-old slugger has stumbled a few times, but refuses to resort back to his old ways.
The 2010 season was when Josh was at his best. He broke a longstanding Rangers’ record with 24 three-hit games along the way to his first batting title (.359). Despite missing 29 games due to injury, he was one of just 25 players to have at least 100 RBIs. The Rangers went on to win the 2010 ALCS – where Hamilton was named MVP – earning the franchise their first trip to the World Series. Although the Rangers of Arlington eventually lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 series, the “Natural” was awarded the American League’s most valuable player award for his achievements during the regular season.
Still, the Rangers have their reservations about their most popular player. From an investment point of view, it makes sense. Can he be trusted with a $200 million 10-year deal? The Rangers will have to pay to find out. Surely the free agent market will be willing to roll the dice. Stay tuned…