I understand the frustration that people feel when it comes to Josh Hamilton. Whenever he struggled, there was a gnawing thought in the back of everyone's mind that maybe this wasn't just a slump—maybe Hamilton, a recovering addict, had started making bad decisions again.
He had a knack for getting injured. Some of them quite bizarre, including a recent five-game stretch where Hamilton couldn't play because of vision problems, the result of reportedly not being able to lay off the Red Bull, which only turned up the volume on that gnawing feeling.
There's no shame in admitting that the gnawing feeling did exist—and if you're being honest, you know you've had that feeling at one point or another over the past five years—because like Hamilton, we are all human.
We are not infallible.
Some will say that the cavalcade of boos that rained down upon Hamilton last night in the AL Wild Card game, boos that grew louder as the game progressed, were the result of him recording four outs on eight pitches.
That it was the result of his lackadaisical attempt to catch Yoenis Cespedes' fly ball against the A's on Wednesday, an error that helped lead to the Rangers dropping the AL West pennant to the Oakland A's.
That it was the result of Hamilton missing five games down the stretch with a vision problem bought on by noting being able to lay off an energy drink, and that it led to him hitting .233 with no home runs, no walks, four RBI and 19 strikeouts as the Rangers dropped eight of their last 10 games of the season.
It all played a part, but this is about that gnawing feeling in the back of our minds, that thought that screams "How good could he have been had he never had his issues; how many of his injuries could have been avoided?"
Hamilton told reporters after last night's game that while he wouldn't boo anyone were he a fan in attendance, he harbors no ill will towards the Rangers faithful: "To the fans, it's been a good ride. No matter if you send me off with boos or not, I still love you." (h/t ESPN)
David Murphy gave what I believe to be an accurate description of the situation: "I understand that baseball is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of sport, but it almost feels like he was taken for granted when he's booed like that."
Five years. Two World Series appearances. Two AL West titles. One MVP award. No rings.
That last part stings, but answer me this? How many World Series are the Texas Rangers making without Josh Hamilton's bat in the middle of their lineup? How many division championships?
Like John Blutarsky's GPA in Animal House, the answer is zero. Nada. Zilch.
While Hamilton only averaged 129 games a season for the Rangers over the past five years, he was always one of the most productive players in the game.
He's a mediocre defensive player on his best days and a pretty terrible one on others, but he also averaged a .304 BA, .912 OPS, 28 HR and 101 RBI over the past five years.
Here comes the "what could have been" thought again.
Replace that thought with "what will be?" considering the likelihood that next season Hamilton will come to Arlington as a visitor.
What will become of the middle of the Rangers' lineup?
Who can replace the production that Hamilton supplied the Rangers with over the past five years?
He's not on the roster currently and he's not in the upper levels of their minor league system.
Craig Gentry? Leonys Martin?
Not a chance.
So while Hamilton's Rangers' career was a roller coaster ride of extreme highs and miserable lows, fans will come to regret that the last gesture they made towards one of the most productive players the team has had in recent years was filled with such anger and vitriol.
Because it's true what they say: "You don't know what you've got until it's gone."