I am having conflicting emotions regarding the latest spate of problems surrounding former MVP and cosmic sore spot in the baseball universe, Josh Hamilton.
The drama surrounding the #1 overall pick in 1999 by the Rays--arguably the Bryce Harper of his time--played in the minors, then fell victim to drug abuse, so after playing in the between 1999-2003, Hamilton, as they say, "hit bottom," and after pretty much blowing his $3.4 million signing bonus, and sat out 2004-2006. (Before we stray too far, let's think about how good the Rays might be had Hamilton been able to toe the line, and resist temptation, and play on the same field with Carl Crawford and friends.)
The Rays, probably a little exasperated, and maybe a little shortsighted, did not protect their pick so in 2006 the Cubs grabbed Hamilton as a Rule 5 pick, and the Chicagoans promptly swapped their prize to the Reds. That did force the hand of some kind of fate, for Cincy had to keep Hamilton on their 25-man roster for the season, which they did. And, they then turned the outfielder into Edinson Volquez, trading Hamilton to the Rangers.
As a Ranger in 2008 Hamilton's big moment was probably winning the Home Run Derby at the All Star Game, and then in 2009, amid a season where he was largely injured, Hamilton had his first publicized relapse, as reported by Deadspin.com.
Of course, 2010 was an MVP year, and 2011 also bore some pretty good numbers for Hamilton, who turned 30 during the first half of that year (probably while he was recovering from a shoulder injury).
And, now Hamilton revealed that he once again relapsed, having admitted to drinking among other things, at Sherlocks, a Texas bar (Deadspin.com has some other gossip about the evening, but we will leave it).
Hamilton, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him $13.750 million dollars, of course has asked for forgiveness and all that babble that seems to go along with being bad and then saved and then forgiven, and then bad again, so now hopefully he can be saved again and forgiven again.
In fact, in order to protect their investment, Hamilton now has a new "keeper," as last Tuesday Shayne Kelley was been named a major league staff assistant and his job description includes being an "advisor" to the flychaser, replacing hitting coach Johnny Narron who departed to do the same for Milwaukee, less the babysitting part.
Now, I can indeed understand the Rangers wanting to make sure they get the most for their money, so I guess I am ok with Kelley, and Narron before following Hamilton around, playing the role of advocate and conscience.
But, aside from the fact that all of this truly makes me weary, for some reason this all reminds me of cartoons.
I think of an old Andy Panda, where the bear eats apples he shouldn't after animated angel and devil alter egos argue back and forth about the right thing to do. Of course this scenario has been repeated in cartoons often as characters wrestle with the anthromorphisized moral ethos. In fact a favorite of mine is Homer Simpson, with Werner Klemperers as Colonel Klink playing point/counterpoint.
But, this also reminded me of our propensity as a culture to hate a guy when he is up, and love him while he is down, gossiping all the while. In fact with that a lot more cartoons come to mind. Again borrowing from the Simpsons as an example, how many comebacks has Krusty the Clown had? He loses his show or gets sued and hits bottom, and then comes back triumphantly.
But, aside from everything else, what I want to know is when did Hamilton stop being responsible for what happens to him?
And, well, if he has found god and faith I am happy for him. And, I am happy--I even rooted for it--that Hamilton has resurrected his career, though I also think of what a waste, wondering what kind of numbers he could have assembled bereft of all the histrionics.
But truly, Hamilton should stop relying on others, like god and Shayne Kelley, and recognize it is his problem. And, recognize that if he wants to drink, or toot some blow, or whatever, it is his priviledge.
It is up to him, like all the rest of us, and while I am full of forgiveness, I wonder about a country where a party line is to take personal responsibility, but then never really do it.
Because Josh, you might have an addictive personality, but only YOU have control over what you do. Just like the rest of us. And truthfully, I don't care if you want to drink or toot coke or anything, because I believe in those personal liberties.
But, I also believe with liberties comes that responsibility. Meaning the only person who can keep you in line is you.