Commentary

Josh Hamilton could be worth drama

Yes, he can be a pain, but all will be forgotten if Rangers win World Series

Updated: September 26, 2012, 12:01 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- If you let it, Josh Hamilton's drama will distract you from his 43 home runs and 124 RBIs this season.

If you let him, Hamilton will make you forget the Texas Rangers' lineup looks and performs considerably different when he's hitting third than when he's out of the lineup for whatever reason.

Yes, Hamilton's occasional drama can be maddening, because it's always something.

[+] EnlargeJosh Hamilton
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJosh Hamilton has missed 14 games this year but leads the majors with 43 home runs.

Last week, he missed the last five games and five innings of one of the season's most important road trips with a mysterious ailment that began as a sinus infection and wound up being something diagnosed as ocular keratitis (a condition that dries the cornea and is often the result of too much caffeine) after a litany of tests and meetings with doctors.

Hallelujah.

Now, the Rangers' center fielder can relax. Hamilton has his eye drops and his peace of mind just in time for the start of the playoffs.

Anyone who's followed his career in Texas -- no matter how briefly -- knows how important that is to Hamilton.

After all, we're talking about a dude who last season told us he couldn't hit in the daytime because he has blue eyes -- a year after hitting .286 with six homers and 21 RBIs in day games.

It became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and he hit .228 with one homer and 12 RBIs in day games last season.

This year, he's hitting .321 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs in day games. Go figure.

Earlier this season, Hamilton hit .202 with eight homers and 27 RBIs in June and July as he tried to give up smokeless tobacco because he believed God was angry at him for dipping in the first place.

Since the start of August, he's hit .285 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs. Hamilton added two more hits Tuesday night, helping the Rangers to an early lead in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to Oakland.

Of course, Hamilton is the same guy who has played with broken bones and struggled through last year's postseason with a torn groin muscle that required surgery to reattach it after the season.

All of this is why he's the biggest enigma in professional sports.

Name another MVP-caliber athlete in one of the other three major professional sports leagues who consistently has so many weird issues at various times?

It's just what you have to deal with when he's on your team. And as long as he's producing at a high level, he's worth the distraction.

When you see it every day, you appreciate and respect Hamilton's talent so much that you want him to be like Adrian Beltre. But that's not who he is. It's probably time to accept that.

You want him to cuss out the manager every time his name's not in the lineup.

You want him to play every game, even though he's averaged just 128 games in five seasons in Texas, because he's the closest thing to Mickey Mantle this generation has seen.

The swing. The power. The defense. The arm.

It's the reason some team will pay him at least $20 million a year in the offseason, when he becomes a free agent, to represent its club for the next five or six seasons.

No doubt, it'll be the most fascinating contract of this millennium. As Hamilton gets older and his body breaks down more frequently, you can be pretty sure the mysterious issues will increase, as will the missed games.

But this is not the time to worry about that.

His ridiculous numbers should have him near the top of the MVP conversation with Los Angeles' Mike Trout, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera and Rangers teammate Beltre.

Instead, he's an afterthought.

That's pretty silly because the only way the Rangers will win a title is if Hamilton leads the way.

When he's hitting well, his teammates feed off of it. They get better pitches to hit and they play with more confidence, which is why manager Ron Washington is always trying to get him in the lineup.

For years, Washington has told Hamilton that his mere presence in the lineup, whether he's productive or not, inspires his teammates and intimidates his opponents.

Some days, Hamilton gets it; others, he doesn't.

What's important now is that his latest five-day hiatus has given his body an unexpected late-season break, which should help during the playoff run.

If Hamilton leads the Rangers to a World Series title, no one will care about Hamilton's frequent drama. All they'll know is he made the Rangers champions.

If not, his legacy here will remain unfulfilled.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE MLB HEADLINES