Josh Hamilton talk: Approach, attitude
Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a five-part series looking at the issues surrounding Josh Hamilton and free agency as it pertains to the Texas Rangers.
Today's topic: Mental approach and attitude
Many of you have expressed your disappointment in Hamilton and much of it seems to be that he appears like he doesn't care at times. The image that is seared into many fans is Hamilton's drop in shallow center field against Oakland. If he comes in for that ball, gets in the proper athletic position and misses it, that's one thing. But he flipped his glove up and appeared to take a way too relaxed approach to the ball. He overran it and the error turned a 5-5 game into a 7-5 A's lead. Oakland went on to win the division and the Rangers' season ended two days later.
Hamilton did stand up and take responsibility after the game, saying he messed up the play. I thought that was important. But he also admitted that he was not in the proper, fundamental position to make the play. How was it possible that he wouldn't be in that correct position in Game No. 162 with the division on the line?
Hamilton has tremendous gifts. We've talked about many of them this week here on the blog. One that wasn't mentioned was he is a good outfielder, has a solid arm and can really run the bases. But to do all of that takes focus. At times, Hamilton shows that focus. Few pitchers in baseball could throw a fastball by Hamilton in April and May. But when they quit trying, Hamilton had trouble laying off the breaking stuff outside of the strike zone. When he did show plate discipline, he took walks and would then force pitchers to at least try to throw something close to the zone. If they did, Hamilton made them pay.
The problem was that those types of at-bats didn't happen enough down the stretch. He was 0-for-4 in the regular-season finale and saw eight pitches. He swung at six of them and never saw a ball. He came up late in the game representing the tying run with a change to erase the memories of his error or missing five games of a crucial road trip because of an odd injury that impacted his vision and instead struck out on an at-bat where he didn't look close to being in sync.
I know that at times it seems like Hamilton doesn't care. He appears to give away at-bats and doesn't take the approach that he's going to fight up there. He's aggressive by nature and will swing at the first pitch more often than most players in the league. But I also think that part of reason Hamilton looks like he doesn't care is that his personality allows him to quickly forget about things and attempt to move on.
Perhaps that was something he developed when dealing with his daily fight against a drug and alcohol addiction. How many times did we see Hamilton look absolutely lost in a couple of at-bats and then hit a tough pitch for an RBI double or deliver a big homer? That would happen in the same game. He had two of the best months you'll ever see this year and then two of the worst. After a terrible July, some players might have spiraled down offensivley and never figured it out. Hamilton had a great August and helped lead the Rangers' offense back from a two-month slump. Then, when the games counted the most, he was out for five games ocular kerotitis, dropped a routine fly ball and couldn't hit in the final week of the season.
He's impressive and maddening at the same time. That's Hamilton.
Where the Rangers have an edge over everyone else in terms of doing homework on Hamilton is they know what kind of personality he is and the drama that surrounds him. The question is how much of it they are willing to put up with and for how long. And, of course, what that's worth to them in terms of how it impacts any offer they may choose to give him.
How much does attitude play in your minds when it comes to whether Hamilton should return for next season and beyond?