Josh Hamilton: Texas Rangers Should Re-Sign All-Star Outfielder

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 7, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 26, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Speculation is rife that Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton will be leaving town, but the franchise should keep the 31-year-old All-Star on board for the remainder of his career.

There is perceived baggage due to Hamilton's inconsistency and alleged "lethargic" attitude, to use the words of ESPN Dallas writer Jean-Jacques Taylor. However, the majority of the blame has shifted Hamilton's way in the aftermath of the team's collapse in blowing the AL West division title.

Some of it is justified, but as the team's best player—and one of the most all-around talented players in baseball—it's safe to say Hamilton is taking too much of the brunt in terms of criticism.

He did miss a stretch of games at the end of the season for dubious reasons, but it's not as though his play was epically awful. He still finished the season with a .285 average, 43 home runs and 128 RBIs. In spite of that, Texas fans impolitely serenaded Hamilton with boos as he struggled through an 0-for-4 performance at the plate in the 5-1 Wild Card loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

What is becoming lost in translation is what Hamilton has done for the Rangers in his five seasons with the franchise.

Never have the Rangers' games been more frequently attended than in the 2012 season. That broke the attendance record the Rangers set last season and a big part of the draw has been Hamilton, who drove the team to two consecutive World Series appearances.

That's right, two straight seasons competing for baseball's ultimate prize.

Sure, the Rangers fell short both times, but the role of such sky-high expectations could very well have taken its toll not just on Hamilton but on the team as a whole.

Although such an assertion is pure speculation, fans of a franchise that has been historically woeful are suddenly expecting World Series appearances every year. They have Hamilton to thank for that, too.

It took Texas a quarter century to even reach the postseason and they endured a 10-year playoff drought before Hamilton's AL Most Valuable Player Award-winning season propelled them to the Fall Classic.

Now that an early exit from the playoffs has manifested itself, fans are calling for Hamilton's head.

Never mind that Texas was the best-hitting team in baseball once again and that the true problem that plagues the team is still pitching, which was mediocre this season after two improved years.

GM Jon Daniels and president Nolan Ryan will definitely have some decisions to discuss in this premature start to the Rangers' offseason and Hamilton will be chief among them. Taylor speculates that Hamilton's off-field issues and antics should run him out of town. The turbulent personal life Hamilton has experienced should also be considered.

Before the Rangers really take the next step to a World Series title, though, their pitching must improve. Losing the production Hamilton brings to the table every season—inconsistencies and all—will be too big of a hole for Texas's prolific offensive lineup to fill.