Tag Archives: Barry Bonds

My Life with Josh

“I’m not a hero. I’m not the savior.  Forget what you know.  I’m just a man whose circumstances went beyond his control, beyond my control.  We all need control.  I need control.  We all need control.”  — Dennis DeYoung

I am not an addict, although sweet tea comes really close for me.  I will not pretend to be an expert on addiction.  I know enough to know that addiction is hell.

However, I do live with an addict in my sports life.  His name is Josh Hamilton.  He left me for a couple of years, thinking there was more out there for him than me.  Now, suddenly Josh is walking back into my life.

And as a Texas Rangers fan…I am conflicted.


In the fall of 2007, the Texas Rangers had A-Rod money to spend after Alex opted out of his Rangers deal and inked a new deal with New York.  With a full wallet, they searched for a big-time centerfielder through free agency or trade.  Rumors swirled around Torii Hunter, Jim Edmonds, Rocco Baldelli, Aaron Rowand, Coco Crisp, and Juan Pierre.   (Yes, THAT Aaron Rowand.)

AP Photo
AP Photo

Just before Christmas, they found their new centerfielder when they traded prized pitching prospect Edinson Volquez to Cincinnati for Josh Hamilton.  Hamilton finally made it to the big leagues in 2007 with the Reds, after years where great promise succumbed to near-fatal addictions.  While sabermetricians predicted good things for Hamilton hitting in The Ballpark in Arlington, Ranger fans boned up on his backstory and hoped for the best.

And wow, did we ever get the best.

Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News

I had a late business meeting in downtown Dallas the night of the 2008 Home Run Derby.  I’ll never know how I drove home safely that night, because tears rolled down my face the whole way as I listened to Hamilton’s performance on the radio.  As ball after ball landed in the farthest reaches of Ruth’s House, and Yankees fans cheered, I could not help feeling joy for Josh realizing his God-given potential on a national stage.  Swear to God, we could have gotten anything the Yankees had if we had offered them Josh Hamilton the next morning.

The Rangers still were not very good yet, but Josh had a great year.  He settled into the area, shared his Christian witness with church youth groups, and quickly became a fan favorite.   He hit baseballs a helluva long way and he threw his body all over center field with abandon.  He provided electric moments and incredible memories for five seasons at Rangers Ballpark.

Occasionally, I listen to Eric Nadel’s call of the walkoff home run Josh hit on July 9, 2011.  That was two nights after fan Shannon Stone tragically fell to his death while reaching for a ball Josh tossed to him and his son.  That homer, that healing moment in time, still gives me chills listening to it today. The video below is from the television broadcast. What a moment it was.

From 2008 – 2012, Josh Hamilton was a baseball beast.

Of course, when we got Baseball Beast Josh, we also got the other Josh.  Snarky Josh with the media.  Silly Josh at Maloney’s Tavern.  Crazy Josh at Sherlock’s.  Whining Josh who blamed his hitting slumps variously on energy drinks, quitting tobacco, personal sin, day games, and his own blue eyes.

THAT Josh.  Recovering Addict Josh.

For five seasons, Josh Hamilton was the greatest player in Texas Rangers history.  He also was our most fascinating character, a volatile mix of testosterone, ego, moodiness, self-doubt, and relapse potential.  He played with a youthful abandon on the field, yet sometimes displayed juvenile behavior off the field.

ESPN
ESPN

Josh’s party in Texas ended in September 2012.  A hitting slump became protracted.  In the last game of the season, with the AL West division on the line, he dropped a crucial fly ball in Oakland.  When he failed to produce at the plate in the Wild Card game, Rangers fans turned on him and booed lustily after each at-bat.  The Rangers lost to Baltimore that night, and the free agent outfielder took his high-wire act to SoCal.

There, he sealed his fate with Texas fans when he famously declared that Dallas-Fort Worth is “not a baseball town.”  He was right, of course, but it still was a cheap shot at Ranger Nation.  Fans dissed him loudly whenever the Angels came to town.

USA Today
USA Today

Soon, Hamilton also lost Angels fans, as his hitting troubles continued and his body began to give out on him.  Off the field, his marriage unraveled.  When he admitted to MLB a still-mysterious relapse of his addictions last February, his Anaheim situation completely tanked.  Owner Arte Moreno could not wait to dump his highly-paid player, believing the relapse was disloyal to his benevolent ownership and toward Hamilton’s teammates.  Texas answered Moreno’s call.

That is how Josh Hamilton ended up on my doorstep, knocking sheepishly and wanting to come home.


Addiction knows no seasons.  When you are on top of the world, feeling secure and invulnerable, the addiction feeds on that.  When you are down in the dumps, feeling unloved and incapable, the addiction feeds on that, too.  It’s why addiction is so insidious.  It attacks you, no matter your mood, no matter your circumstance.

Living with a recovering addict is difficult.  It is not a matter of IF they will break your heart again, but WHEN.   All of your love and support and counsel cannot make the addiction just go away.  You never take the good times for granted.  You pray the bad times are not too bad.


Sometime in 2012, Josh Hamilton lost his mojo.  Baseball came so easy for Josh from childhood on, but now he scuffles around, looking for that magic moment when it all clicks into place and he becomes a beast again.  Hamilton lives for the cheers and chants—needs them, really—but those are far fewer and much farther apart now.

AP Photo
AP Photo

After the latest relapse, Arte Moreno wanted Hamilton to grow up, man up, and stop his self-destructive behavior.  Moreno may not understand addiction.  Josh is not stupid, immature, disloyal, or intentionally self-destructive.  He is an addict.  Every skill, every decision, every emotion, every relationship is at risk every minute of every day from the addiction.  Addiction is not an excuse.  It is a driving force.

Josh Hamilton will never be a Baseball Beast again.  He did not find the formula in Anaheim.  It appears he may have started remembering the formula during rehab stints in Round Rock and Frisco.  Can he help this 2015 Rangers offense?  Sure, but only because this offense is So. Freaking. Awful.

Baseball Beast Josh is gone forever.  Recovering Addict Josh lives on.  All of this begs the question, then, “Why will I let Josh Hamilton back into my sports life now?”

Simply put, Josh Hamilton touches my heart.

After all, this is not Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds, two cruddy personalities who screwed royally with the integrity of the game I love.  He is not Josh Brent who killed a man, or Ray Rice who cold-cocked a woman.  He is not Floyd Mayweather, thank God, a pathetic excuse for a man.  Hamilton is not a stain on civil society or on the game of baseball.

Austin American Statesman
Austin American Statesman

Josh Hamilton is merely a fallen human, a kid in an adult’s aging body who just wants to play baseball like he thinks he still can.  I root for him because I’m fallen, too.  We all are.  He wants to be better at life, and so do I.  I want him to succeed, not just as a Texas Ranger, but much more importantly as a man.  I want him to succeed for his kids and for the kids who wore his last name on their backs for years.

Mine are not the ramblings of a sentimental sap pining for days past.  I know what I’m getting myself into as Josh returns to the Rangers.  Hamilton will piss me off sometimes.  He may get on a hot streak and thrill me for a week or two.  I’m ready for both, if it means that the guy underneath the uniform gets a little more sober and a little more healed.

I listened to his April 27 press conference when both Joshes took questions from reporters.  Baseball Beast Josh got testy over the pointed queries about his aborted time in Anaheim and what he can possibly give Texas on the field.  Recovering Addict Josh talked openly and unashamed about his need for control, having people around him who love him and try to protect him from himself.

Cockiness mixed with concession.   Good grief, it all felt so familiar.


When I met my wife, she knew nothing about baseball.  I took her to her first major league game in 1994.  Over the last 20 years of following the Rangers with me, she has loved only two players:  Ivan Rodriguez and Josh Hamilton.  She still has her Josh memorabilia, even though that dumb “baseball town” statement ticked her off. She roots for him, too, so much so that she got emotional as I read her this article.

Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News

I’ve seen Josh play a few times at the Ballpark since he joined the Angels.  I never once booed him as thousands of others did.  Josh Hamilton played a huge role in a magical era for Rangers fans, and for that he always will have this fan’s gratitude and ongoing support.

So if returning to Arlington helps you on your journey, Josh, then welcome home, brother.  Have some iced Gold Peak with me.  My door is open.

Even so, you will break my heart again.   I know it.   It’s just a matter of time.


Bobby Quinten is a Contributor at The Scoop. Follow him on Twitter at @BobbyQuinten.

 

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25 Most Important People in Baseball History

My friend Graham Womack hosted an interesting crowd-sourced project at his fabulous blog Baseball: Past and Present.  To participate this project, each voter picked 25 people whom they believe to be the most important in the history of baseball.

I, of course, cast a ballot, though it was a tough quest. I considered an unfathomable number of people who contributed something significant to baseball. There’s no clear measurement like, say, WAR, to judge how great they are. It’s completely based on my opinion. It took me more than 5 hours, but I was finally able to fill out my ballot. If you ask tomorrow, I’d probably choose a different 25. But for today, here are my picks, sorted by an alphabetical order.


Hank Aaron CardHank Aaron

Great baseball player, even greater person. 755 home runs, 3771 hits, 2297 RBI, 142.6 bWAR, 21 all-star selections. Also, he’s said to be one of the classiest guys in the sport.

Barry Bonds CardBarry Bonds

The best player the game ever had not named Babe Ruth. In the light of his great talent and the darkness of all the steroid crap, he represents how baseball looked like in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Alexander Cartwright CardAlexander Cartwright

He didn’t create the game from the scratch. But he and his New York volunteer firemen colleagues were an unignorable part in forming the rules of the game, and played the first recorded baseball game in history.

Chadwick's American Baseball ManualHenry Chadwick

All he created was RBI, pitcher W-L, and many of the stats classified as “useless” by stat heads these days. But Chadwick invented the box score itself. It’s even possible that advanced stats wouldn’t have existed without his invention of a way to record the game in the books.

Curt Flood CardCurt Flood

After becoming a regular in 1958, his age 20 season, Flood had accumulated 42.2 bWAR before he turned 32. But he sacrificed his borderline Hall of Fame career in the fight to get players the right known today as free agency.  In fact, he got only 40 more plate appearances afterwards. Without his effort,  there wouldn’t be 9-figure contracts today.

sabr.org
sabr.org

Sean Forman

For us baseball nerds, Baseball Reference is a part of life. Eat, sleep, brush teeth, browse through various B-Ref player pages. Forman changed the way we watch the game by creating the encyclopediac baseball database.


Rube Foster CardRube Foster

Pioneer of African American baseball when they weren’t allowed to be in the big leagues.  The Texas native played a huge part in establishment and improvement of the Negro League.

Melissa Lacey/Journal-World Photo
Melissa Lacey/Journal-World Photo

Bill James

Without this man, advanced baseball analysis wouldn’t look as it does today. Bill James is to sabermetrics as Jimmy Page is to rock n’ roll, or Galileo Galilei is to astronomy.

Ban Johnson CardBan Johnson

Johnson is known as the founder and the first president of the American League. While a few other leagues,  like the Federal League, lasted for only a couple of years or so, the Senior Circuit has been there for more than a century.

Mike Groll/Associated Press
Mike Groll/Associated Press

Frank Jobe

An uncountable number of pitchers’ career would’ve been cut short had Jobe not invented the way to reconstruct torn UCLs in their elbow. The image we’ve chosen for Dr. Jobe includes his most famous patient, former pitcher Tommy John.

Connie Mack CardConnie Mack

With a 3731-3948 record, Mack is both the winningest and losingest skipper in history, by a thousand light years. In today’s game, no one manages for 50 years, let alone stays with one team for that long.

Willie Mays CardWillie Mays

This  spot could easily be given to Stan Musial, Micky Mantle, or Tris Speaker. But John Fogerty sung about none of them in his universally known classic song. Well, Ty Cobb missed the cut because of his personality. Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio, in my opinion, didn’t have a long enough career. So I’m going with Say Hey Willie.

sabr.org
sabr.org

Voros McCracken

McCracken’s legendary research on pitching and defense is one of the most significant events in the history of sabermetrics and, furthermore, the game itself.  Advanced pitching stats like FIP or BABIP would probably not have been exposed to our eyes had McCracken not done this research.

Associated Press
Associated Press

Marvin Miller

During his tenure as the executive director of the MLBPA, the average annual player salary went up more than 1700%. He also played an important roll in the establishment of free agency, along with Curt Flood. It’s a shame that Miller wasn’t elected into the Hall of Fame before his death (and he still hasn’t been).

Branch Rickey CardBranch Rickey

Player development would’ve been completely different without Rickey. Among Rickey’s many innovations are affiliated farm system and the 20-80 scouting scale. But he did even greater things for the game itself (see below).

Jackie Robinson CardJackie Robinson

Branch Rickey’s best known accomplishment is signing the first African American player in modern baseball history, Jackie Robinson. Imagine if Robinson had failed. We would never have had Aaron, Mays, and Bonds at the top of all-time leaderboards. The role he had was huge, and he surpassed the stratospheric expectation.

Babe Ruth CardBabe Ruth

No one has changed (or ever will) the game in the way this great American did.

 

Vin Scully CardVin Scully

It would be blasphemous to go without mentioning the greatest broadcaster of all-time.

 


Shoriki MatsutaroMatsutaro Shoriki

He probably was an awful person. He even was arrested for supporting  WWII. But he’s the guy behind the founding of NPB. The Japanese Professional Baseball League would have been less than it is now without him. He’s enshrined in the NPB Hall of Fame.

Al Spalding CardAl Spalding 

Not only was he a fine player, Spalding also was a  successful businessman. After his playing career, in which he pitched 2886.1 innings and had a 252-65 record in a span of 7 years in the 1870s, he founded a sports equipment company named after himself. Spalding one of the biggest players in the business today. Moreover, he’s said to be the first known player used a glove.

O'Meara/Associated Press
O’Meara/Associated Press

George Steinbrenner 

The last owner in history who single-handedly controlled his team.  The Boss and his Yankees  were always at the center of baseball journalism, or somewhere around there, during his tenure as an owner.

Bill Veeck CardBill Veeck

He was an even more influencing owner than Steinbrenner. He was a man of many ideas. One of them was using a midget as a pinch hitter.

AP
AP

You may or may not have seen this photograph of a tiny guy squatting at the plate.  He deserves my vote for the Eddie Gaedel at-bat (well, it’s officially a plate appearance), along with many other weird stuff he did.

Ted Williams CardTed Williams

It wouldn’t be a proper list without including the best hitter in the history of game in my 25. Yes, Teddy Ballgame is even a better batsman than The Bambino, in my honest opinion.  I always wonder what his career stats would’ve looked like had he not lost 5 years to serving his country.

Horace WilsonHorace Wilson

Not many baseball fans have heard of Wilson.  He’s said to have brought the game of baseball to Japan in 1871, when he was a teacher at a school currently know as Tokyo University.  To this Japanese author, it’s important enough to put his name here. Wilson was elected to the NPB Hall of Fame in 2003.

Cy Young CardCy Young

It’s called the “Cy Young Award,” not the “Walter Johnson Award,” nor the “Nolan Ryan Award.” Johnson might have been a better pitcher, but for this reason, my 25th pick belongs to Denton True “Cy” Young, both the winningest and losingest pitcher in history.

That’s my Top 25 – who’s on yours? Let me know on Twitter. The overall project results will be posted on BaseballPastAndPresent.com sometime during the week of November 10, 2014, so be sure to have a look and see what the 262 voters came up with.


Kazuto Yamazaki is a Contributor for The Scoop, based in Japan. Follow him on Twitter at @Kazuto_Yamazaki.