Is Nolan Ryan using reverse psychology on the rest of the league in order to better the Texas Rangers chances of signing All-Star OF Josh Hamilton? Or has he already began the process of separating the fans from their beloved slugger?
The Rangers team president and CEO has in my opinion always been a realist when it comes to the team in Arlington. Obviously, there is a very real problem with the bat of a man who in April and May was mentioned as a potential Triple Crown winner.
In a recent interview with ESPN Radio in Dallas (103.3 FM) Ryan said about Hamilton:
"He doesn't work deep into the count, he's swinging at a lot of bad pitches…what you're hoping is that his approach will change and he'll start giving quality at bats…I can't ever say that I ever saw Henry Aaron give an at-bat away."
Among other things, Ryan also said that you can't say "it looks like something with his swing. He's just not being selective and dug himself a hole that he needs to get out of."
Hamilton is stepping into the box with what appears to be the mindset of swinging at everything.
Whether it be swinging at the first pitch, swinging at obvious balls or being unable to extend at bats by his frequent swing and misses as of late, Hamilton has begun to look like Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard and less like the feared contact/average/power hitter he was known to be the first two months of the season.
Oh, and have you heard this is a contract year?
I've had the discussion with numerous baseball fans of what exactly Hamilton could be worth on the open market.
Throughout the year I have heard answers ranging anywhere from a $160 million player to a guy who could approach $200 million.
So I suppose the $40 million question is this:
Has Ryan began the process of separating the fans from their star? Or has he simply implanted doubt among rival GMs that could lower the asking price of a player he wants to retain?
In my opinion, the Rangers have every intention of bringing back Hamilton in 2013. However, much like the Strasburg inning dilemma, they likely have already deciding on just how far they will go.
I believe Ryan is lighting a fire under Hamilton while at the same time attempting to convince other teams that he isn't worth breaking the bank over.
Yes, there will be other outfield options the Rangers could pursue this offseason at a cheaper price. Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera and a few others are productive players that would come at a much more budget friendly price.
But let's be honest. None of those players are equivalent to the Josh Hamilton we know when he is producing.
The AL West this year is very much up for grabs. Next year and for the years which would contain a Hamilton contract it will become even more competitive.
Pujols, Trumbo and young phenom Mike Trout appear to be building the foundation of a solid lineup for years to come. The Astros will be competitive around 2014-2015, and the Athletics and Mariners should be on pace to improve as well.
Signing Hamilton beyond 2012 will also help to keep a familiar face.
An example from the Rangers starting pitching staff: Texas does not have a player on their active roster who started a game in the 2010 World Series.
Hamilton will be needed if the team is going to compete in the future and it would love to lock him up long term and keep him a member of the Rangers. It's a talented team, but you can only move so many pieces before the win total begins to decline.
If I were Nolan Ryan, I would realize the value of Hamilton to my team, but I would downplay that as much as possible. He is a proven MLB player.
Worst case scenario, the comments light a fire under Hamilton. He goes on a tear that raises his asking price, but potentially lands you that evasive World Series championship.
Best case scenario, you've drawn attention from every team in baseball to his sleeping bat and lowered the asking price of a capable player who will turn it all around eventually. He becomes a contributor rather than the lead man in what could be a deep playoff run.
Simple business move. If the worst case scenario involves losing a player in a bidding war but nets a World Series trophy, then count me in.
Will Hamilton be a member of the Rangers next year? Who knows.
If Ryan's true idea behind those comments were to get a discussion going over Josh Hamilton's ability and possibly lower his offseason asking price, it is most certainly working.