Last Thurday night, less than five minutes after the blog Lone Star Ball published information from a Dallas Morning News story reporting that outfielder Josh Hamilton—a recovering addict—had been spotted in a bar, two commenters admitted that they couldn’t help but think about the baseball team as much as Hamilton’s disease.
“All I can think is this helps the Rangers if they pursue longterm deal,” wrote texasrfan. “Human side though, awful…just awful.”
“I alternate between being sad for Josh and potentially happy for resigning him easier,” responded ZBTSports. “Then I feel like a douche.”
Don’t worry, guys, because you weren’t alone. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s Randy Galloway weighed in that same night, also focusing on Hamilton’s free agency after 2013, though with the opposite conclusion.
Galloway suggested that the former American League MVP’s refusal thus far to give the Rangers a hometown discount was ungracious given how much the Rangers had supported Hamilton during his ongoing recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. And now that that recovery had hit another bump (Hamilton also very publicly relapsed in 2009), the Rangers shouldn’t offer him more than a one-year contract.
“At the moment, it’s certainly not about where Hamilton plays baseball after this season,” Galloway wrote, even though the entire column was about exactly that.
But so were lots of subsequent columns, both locally and nationally. It wasn’t quite as bad as ESPN.com’s “How does PSU scandal affect recruiting” story three days after the Jerry Sandusky case broke, but it reflected the same basic truth: the sports machine marches on. The Rangers care about Hamilton, but they still have to run their team; Rangers fans care about Hamilton, but they also care how his addiction and his future contract status may affect the team.
Hamilton faced the press on Friday:
“This is not a baseball story,” Rangers GM Jon Daniels said in a separate media conference call. “This is something that is real. This is something Josh deals with, an addiction, an issue he has that is affecting him and people around him who care about him. He’s a husband and a father foremost. That is where our head is at, to make sure the get the supports he needs.”
Much has been made about the fact that Hamilton has been without an “accountability partner,” since Johnny Narron, who’d been with Hamilton since they both were with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, left the Rangers to become the Milwaukee Brewers’ hitting coach. Hamilton’s father-in-law initially agreed to fill the role, then changed his mind.
Daniels told the media, “Ironically, we’re working through that process simultaneously. We’re close. This person was in the process of going through interviews before this happened. I expect to have an announcement early next week.”
Jen Floyd Engel of Fox Sports takes a different view suggesting that it might be time for the Rangers to consider being less involved in Hamilton’s recovery, since in the long-run, the team-provided hands-on help won’t always be there for him. (The same goes the eight-months-a-year regimentaion of the game itself, as Amanda Cobra of WFAA points out—both of Hamilton’s lapses occurred during a time when he wasn’t playing.)
Writes Floyd Engel:
Nobody is to be responsible for the sobriety of an addict but the addict.
I actually think this accountability partner is hurting Hamilton, just like love and trust of family and friends actually ends being up what hurts so many addicts.
Hamilton can not have somebody with him 24/7 and almost assuredly will not when his baseball career is done. It is not realistic. It is not life.
He gets the closest thing possible now because he is getting paid $12 million this year to play baseball. And the accountability partner is taking away the accountability.
The Rangers would be wise to say “Josh, we love you but we cannot be responsible for your sobriety. You have to and, if you can do that, we’d be happy to have you back.”
What Hamilton needs is to do what so many addicts have to do, which is to figure out how to win this battle every day when nobody is stopping you from making a mistake but yourself. This would be the best thing the Rangers could do for him: Stop protecting their investment and help him save himself.
I have rolled over my delete key for a couple of minutes now on the previous sentence, fearing it is too harsh or judgmental. Anybody who has ever met Hamilton is pulling for him, and I include myself in that.