Baseball is a funny game. Just a few short months ago, Ranger fans were biting their nails and hoping Josh Hamilton would find it in his heart to give the team a hometown discount and re-sign with Texas. Fast-forward a bit, and now people are practically throwing his belongings in the front lawn and shooing him out of town.
The 31-year-old played poorly down the stretch, but there is plenty of blame to go around for the Rangers' season ending with an unceremonious thud.
Hamilton is a free agent now, and at this point all indications are that Hamilton and Texas will go their separate ways.
If this is the end, it's been an interesting ride to say the least.
Hopefully when the dust settles from this debacle, people will realize again how fortunate they were to have Hamilton on their team these last five years.
After a quiet rookie season in Cincinnati, Hamilton burst onto the scene right out of the starting gate his first year in Texas.
In April, he hit .333 with six home runs and 32 RBI. He followed that up by hitting .322 with eight home runs and 29 RBI in May.
For his efforts, he was named American League Player of the Month each month. In doing so, he became the first AL player in history to win the award for the first two months of the season.
In other words, Hamilton wasted little time announcing his arrival as a budding superstar. It took a little longer than he planned, but it was welcomed in Texas nonetheless.
The 2008 season was a year of firsts for Hamilton, including this walk-off home run against Los Angeles.
The Rangers began the inning down 4-2 with the Angels’ untouchable closer Francisco Rodriguez on the mound. After Michael Young’s RBI single pulled them within a run, Hamilton launched a two-run shot over the wall in right field to win the game.
The team mobbed him at home plate. It wouldn’t be Hamilton’s last walk-off hit, but it’s still one he’ll never forget.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the Texas offense. They left 13 men on base and continually failed to capitalize on crucial scoring situations as the game moved into extra innings.
After Toronto took a 7-5 lead in the 13th, the Rangers' hopes of a comeback were looking slim.
Hamilton was battling an upper respiratory infection that week, which made him lightheaded and dizzy. He actually received IV fluids and oxygen after the game.
Still, with the lead cut to 7-6 and a runner on second base, Hamilton used what little energy he had left to lift a two-run blast over the center-field wall and give the Rangers a comeback win.
This would be much higher on this list had the series turned out differently. As it is, Hamilton’s dramatic home run in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series is one of the most remarkable plays of his tenure in Texas.
Josh battled a very painful groin injury throughout the series against St. Louis that all but zapped his power. He could be seen grimacing at times during his at-bats.
After the Cardinals shockingly tied the score in the bottom of the ninth, Hamilton, who hadn’t hit a home run all postseason, stepped to the plate with a runner on in the top of the 10th. Right on cue, he ripped a fastball over the fence in right-center field to give Texas the lead once more.
Unfortunately, his heroics were not enough, as St. Louis rallied once again, robbing Hamilton of a spot in the annals of baseball glory.
In perhaps no other game as a Ranger has Hamilton’s wide array of skills been on display better than this night against Boston.
Texas faced an 8-2 deficit early in the game. Then Josh kicked things into high gear and helped the team mount a furious rally.
His offense was superb: four hits, a home run and four runs scored. His defense was spectacular: three great grabs, including this leaping catch at the wall that robbed a potential home run.
Hamilton’s speed, a skill that is often overlooked, also played a key role in the game. After hitting a two-out double in the eighth inning, he managed to score from second on an infield single to tie the score at nine.
Nelson Cruz’s walk-off home run in extra innings won the game, which was only made possible by Hamilton's huge effort.
It was the biggest series in the history of the Texas Rangers franchise. A battle against the defending champion New York Yankees for the right to represent the American League in the World Series.
If Hamilton was nervous, he sure didn’t play like it. He got things going right off the bat, drilling a three-run home run off C.C. Sabathia in the first inning of Game 1 to give Texas the early lead. He repeated this feat in Game 3, hitting a two-run shot off Andy Pettitte to begin the game.
He finished the series hitting .350 with four homers and seven RBI.
These numbers are exceptional, considering the Yankees refused to pitch to him towards the end of the series. Josh was intentionally walked a record five times, finishing the ALCS with eight total.
There were a lot of heroes in that series, but Hamilton is at the top of the list. The Rangers don’t clinch their first pennant without him.
It’s something that happens at every game. A player tosses a foul ball into the stands and into the awaiting arms of an ecstatic fan. Josh Hamilton did this very thing on July 7, 2011—only this time the result was much more tragic.
A fan named Shannon Stone, in attendance with his six-year-old son, accidentally fell from the outfield stands reaching for the foul ball. He died from his injuries a short time later.
Hamilton, the Rangers organization and the rest of the community were devastated. For a man that had overcome so much, this seemed like a cruel twist.
Josh took the field two days later, still with a heavy heart. Down 6-5 to the Athletics in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on, he crushed a 2-0 pitch into the upper deck in right field. The home run sent the stadium into pandemonium and gave the Rangers an emotional win.
Though nothing can bring the young boy’s father back, Hamilton’s homer is still a good example of the healing power of sports.
The big lefty put on a clinic this night in Baltimore, proving how dangerous he is when he’s locked in.
Hamilton became just the 16th player in the history of baseball to hit four home runs in one game. They each came with Elvis Andrus on base, coincidentally.
The one ball he didn’t hit out that night was a double in the gap. It didn’t matter what the Oriole pitchers threw him or what the count was, they simply had no answer for him.
He finished the game with a career-high eight RBI, and his 18 total bases set an American League record.
The 2009 campaign was a very forgettable one for Hamilton. Battling injuries all year long, he played just 89 games in what turned out to be his least productive season to date.
He returned to form in 2010, proving to everyone he wasn’t just a one-hit wonder.
Hamilton won his first batting title that season, finishing with a Rangers record .359 batting average. He also tied a career high with 32 homers, drove in 100 runs for the second time in his career, and played Gold Glove-caliber defense. Other stats included a .411 OBP, .633 SLG and 1.044 OPS.
Broken ribs caused him to miss almost all of September, but despite giving the rest of the American League a month to catch up, no one could pass Hamilton.
He was named AL Most Valuable Player that November, capping off one of the greatest seasons ever for a Ranger.
No question Hamilton’s signature moment as a professional baseball player was this hitting exhibition in old Yankee Stadium.
If there were a sports fan anywhere that wasn’t aware of who he was, his story of redemption, or his incredible gifts as a hitter, this night changed all that.
Hamilton stepped into The House that Ruth Built and put on a display that would have left even the Sultan of Swat shaking his head in disbelief.
A record 28 balls left the yard in the first round, including 13 straight at one point. These weren’t just soft pop flies the wind caught hold of and blew over the fence. Most had a motor on them—the longest was measured at 518 feet.
At one point, even the notoriously stingy New York fans rose to their feet and began chanting Hamilton’s name.
He didn’t win the derby, but in the end that didn’t really seem like the point. This night was about more than baseball.