Despite leading the franchise to back-to-back World Series appearances before this year's disappointing finish, CBSSports.com insider Danny Knobler documents the growing sentiment at Rangers headquarters:
...The prevailing feeling in the Rangers organization seems to be, "Thanks for the memories, and we'll see you next year (in another uniform)."
The Hamilton dilemma is a massive decision looming for the front office. The 2010 AL MVP was booed by the home crowd while struggling to an 0-for-4 outing in a decisive 5-1 wild-card loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
As the team's best player, Hamilton has shouldered plenty of the blame and is only 50-50 on returning. The Rangers seem less likely than that to sign him.
It may be difficult for president Nolan Ryan and GM Jon Daniels to shop Hamilton due to his stunning past of drug and alcohol addiction, the latter of which he has relapsed into on a couple of occasions.
John Machota of the Dallas Morning News' Rangers blog recorded Hamilton's thoughts about his contract situation following the loss to Baltimore:
I would always love to stay here. They understand that and they know that. When we talked earlier in the year, we didn’t get things worked out, so we said we’d wait until the year was over and they obviously get the first shot.
Hamilton seems to be leaving his options open, implying that Texas gets the first shot, but that he will undoubtedly test the waters elsewhere. Who could blame him? After leading the charge of two of the franchise's greatest seasons ever, being showered with boos in what might have been his final home game couldn't have improved his chances of re-signing.
Any potential landing spots are pure speculation right now, but the Rangers will have more time than they've been used to in recent years to think it over.
Hamilton's production of 43 home runs and 128 RBI in 2012 will be nearly impossible to replace if the Rangers move forward with their current sentiment. What has truly prevented them from winning a championship is a lack of consistent starting pitching.
Even if the Rangers decide to let Hamilton walk and look for pitching help instead, the focal point of their offense for the past five years will be lost. That might be too much to overcome if the franchise wants to remain in the contending position it has grown newly accustomed to.
Personal issues and relatively "inconsistent" production aside, Hamilton is largely to thank for that.