ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was just six months ago that Josh Hamilton's popularity, not to mention his stock, hit an all-time high in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Hamilton, whose story of battling drug and alcohol addiction to make it to the big leagues captivated the country, had just mashed an incredible four homers in a game in early May at Camden Yards in Baltimore. That is the closest hitting equivalent to a perfect game, if you look at the rarity of the feat, and Hamilton was in the middle of a searing hot streak. Fans were calling into sports talk shows, begging the Rangers' front office to start long-term negotiations with the slugger before his price got set in the open market. The Rangers heading into the future without Hamilton, the team's most popular player, batting third in the lineup seemed unthinkable to many fans.
But in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately universe we live in, the way Hamilton's season paralleled a rough end to the Rangers' season has really hurt his reputation and value with fans. An inconsistent 2012 ended with a strange injury, a botched play and a no-show performance in the American League wild-card game that caused some fans at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington to boo the slugger.
Hamilton missed five big road games with what he admitted was a "weird" physical issue that caused him to be able to focus on only one spot, affecting his ability to play. He said the problem was too much caffeine, so he cut down on coffee and energy drinks, and felt better. But his bat, like those of his teammates, went MIA when it counted most. So, too, did his glove in the division-deciding game.
To read more of this column on the Rangers' interesting -- and confounding -- slugger, click here.