Monday, February 6, 2012

Can Rangers manage Hamilton's weak moments?

The Texas Rangers stood firmly in Josh Hamilton’s corner this weekend as he confessed to having a weak moment and succumbing to the temptation of alcohol once again. But I can’t help but wonder if the Rangers are close to deciding that enough is enough and cutting him loose.

The Rangers are not the first baseball team to deal with a player battling substance abuse issues. The New York Yankees welcomed both Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, among others, into the Yankee family despite repeated suspensions for both players. For all his faults, George Steinbrenner recognized addiction as something beyond the control of the players. He showed them a lot more support and sympathy than he did other players under his control, even though there were always questions about why he kept giving them second chances.

The Rangers have given Hamilton several chances. It’s not altruistic, of course. When Hamilton is healthy, he can be one of the most productive hitters in the American League (something the Yankees know all too well), as shown by his 2010 Most Valuable Player award. And Hamilton helped lead the Rangers to consecutive AL pennants. It would be incredibly difficult to walk away from such a talented player. 

But at some point, you wonder if Rangers’ personnel will simply tire of having to constantly monitor Hamilton to ensure he does not slip again or decide it is too much of a risk to build a lineup around someone with Hamilton’s problems. He is going to be a free agent after the season, which will force the Rangers to make a decision sooner rather than later. Can they give him a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract not knowing if he can maintain his sobriety? It’s an awfully big risk to take. I would not want to be the person having to make that decision.

I hope for Hamilton’s sake that he can find a way to stay sober and free of his addiction demons. I also hope the Rangers can find a way to continue to show him compassion. But baseball is a business and compassion only goes so far, as Hamilton will probably find out soon.

Thanks to Mikejames19 via Wikipedia for the photo.  

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