Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton joined some historical company on Tuesday night when he became just the 16th player in history to hit four home runs in one game. It excited Rangers players, fans, coaches and executives alike, but that enthusiasm quickly turned to concern for the latter of that list. A free agent-to-be at the end of the 2012 season and with a lockout likely looming, Hamilton just made things really difficult for his team concerning his long-term status with the franchise.
Before the season began, Hamilton and the Rangers were getting very close to a long-term contract extension that would have likely kept the slugger in Texas for the remainder of his career. However, an alcohol relapse in early February ended the negotiations and began a shorty, fiery exchange of public remarks between the player and team.
The spat concluded with Hamilton saying he would be cheaper for the Rangers to sign “right now” than later in the season or after its conclusion. He couldn’t have been more right after his historical night that propelled Texas to a 10-3 victory over the Baltimore Orioles. Hamilton was very humble following the performance, but that doesn’t change how he feels about his contract situation.
“Obviously it’s, other than being in the World Series, the highlight of my big-league career,” Hamilton said. “What a blessing that was. It was just an awesome feeling to see how excited my teammates got.”
And then the kicker:
“It reminds you of when you’re in Little League and a little kid, and just the excitement and why we play the game,” Hamilton said. “Things like that. You never know what can happen. It was just an absolute blessing.”
Oh, so now it’s all about having fun again? If his comments were sincere, this would be the Josh Hamilton that Rangers fans have been dying to see since he was crowned AL MVP in 2010. Even through the 2011 World Series Hamilton was a hard-working, God-fearing, head-first-sliding slugger that was the backbone of this Texas team. It seemed like the relapse changed that; it made him arrogant and disloyal to the team.
Maybe this incredible performance truly did make Hamilton feel blessed and maybe his teammates’ excitement really did give him sheer joy. The Rangers better hope so because Hamilton’s free agent price just sky-rocketed as he predicted it would at the time of the relapse.
The real dilemma here is the fact Hamilton isn’t involved in the contract negotiations at all; his agent, Mike Moye, is in completely and totally in charge of that. In fact, Hamilton didn’t even know Moye had met with the Rangers brass on April 11, the first time since the relapse, until after it happened. That means Hamilton’s price not only sky-rocketed after the 4-home run night, but it’s also got a new retail premium on top.
That refers to the price of soon-to-be free agents during incredible seasons, like Hamilton’s current situation. Had he avoided the relapse and been signed to an extension in the off-season, the Rangers could have signed their slugger for a “wholesale” or “discounted” price, if you will.
Now Moye has all the leverage and unless Hamilton’s seemingly new-found admiration of his team takes over the situation, the Rangers will be hurting the contract situations of other pending free agents Colby Lewis, David Murphy and Mike Napoli to name a few. Thus, Hamilton’s selfishness might hurt the Rangers’ team outlook in the long run if his high level of production and lack of love for the team continue.