The Texas Rangers completed their late-season collapse by losing 5-1 to the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Wild-Card Game Friday night. They now have a decision to make that will alter the course of the franchise.
Are they better off with or without Josh Hamilton?
Hamilton was showered with boos after his three-pitch strikeout in the eighth inning left him 0-for-4 in the one-game playoff. If this was his last game as a Ranger, he certainly had a better ending in mind.
In fact, his performance was a culmination of Hamilton's struggles in the last few weeks of September. The left fielder finished the year going 10-for-43, with no home runs or walks and 19 strikeouts.
That went hand-in-hand with Texas losing eight of its last 10 games. The Rangers coughed up home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs and were swept by Oakland to hand the A's the AL West title on the final day of the regular season.
Despite hitting 43 home runs and driving in 128 runs, Hamilton's year will be remembered most for his critical error in that division-deciding loss to the A's.
Couple that with a stat shown during the telecast of the Orioles game that said Hamilton had one home run in his last 82 postseason plate appearances and it's easy to understand why he may not be back in a Texas uniform next year.
So are the Rangers better off without him?
In the short term, the answer is no. But as a whole, when you look at the direction this franchise is heading, that no becomes a yes.
There is no quick fix to replacing Hamilton. This upcoming crop of free-agents is less than impressive.
The only outfielder available who has even close to the numbers that Hamilton does is Curtis Granderson. David Wright and Robinson Cano are free agents, too. However, all three have team options for 2013 that are expected to be exercised.
Assuming none of them are in Arlington next year, the Rangers will have a glaring hole in their lineup.
Keep in mind, though, Hamilton is looking for at least a five-year deal worth $20 million-plus a season. And, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports points out, Texas already understands its situation:
The Rangers are entering a transition period in which they try to do what only the most successful franchises can: reload instead of rebuild. They've got the goods for it: the money, the prospects, the front-office brains, the air of success. Paying Hamilton that sort of salary for that long goes against much of what they believe, which can be summed up thusly: Do not give large sums of money to aging players.
They say all good things come to an end. So even though amilton's tenure as a Texas Ranger will probably have concluded on an incredibly sour note, that doesn't erase the five years of success they shared together.
It just means that, at this point, a mutual parting of the ways between player and team is the best thing for both involved.