MLB: Josh Hamilton Headed to the DL, What Does it Mean for the AL West?

Brandon McClintock@@BMcClintock_BSNCorrespondent IApril 12, 2011

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 12:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers slides into home plate during the third inning while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on April 12, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. Hamilton was out from a tag by Victor Martinez  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers' impressive offense took a major step backwards Tuesday when reigning American League MVP Josh Hamilton injured his right shoulder sliding into home plate.

Hamilton, who had tripled to reach third base, slid headfirst into home in an attempt to score. Detroit Tigers catcher Victor Martinez made a great play to tag Hamilton out.

Hamilton said he heard a pair of pops in his shoulder following the play at the plate. He attempted a few swings to see if he could continue and decided he could not.

Preliminary X-rays and an MRI confirmed a fracture in the humerus bone. Hamilton will now miss six to eight weeks.

Hamilton called the play "stupid" following the game, telling ESPN's Richard Durrett, "It was just a stupid play, I definitely shouldn't have done it."

Coming in the first inning of the game, the play definitely seemed unnecessary, considering the Rangers have had the hottest offense in baseball through the first 10 games of the season.

"There was nobody covering home plate, so we tried to steal a run there," Rangers third base coach Dave Anderson told Durrett. "He made a pretty good play. That's a tough play for a catcher running away and shovel pass and try to tag a guy. There was an opportunity with two outs, and we tried to take advantage of it."

I can understand taking a chance in the late innings of a close game or in the final at-bats if you are down by a run, but I agree with Hamilton's assessment that it was an unnecessary risk to take.

"I listened to my third base coach," Hamilton added. "That's a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. [He said], 'Nobody's at home, nobody's at home.' I was like, 'Dude, I don't want to do this. Something's going to happen.' But I listened to my coach. And how do you avoid a tag the best, by going in headfirst and get out of the way and get in there. That's what I did."

Chris Davis has been called up by the Rangers to take Hamilton's spot on the 25-man roster.


How does this decision affect the Rangers and the rest of the AL West?

While you never like to see a player injured, if you are a fan of the Oakland Athletics or Los Angeles Angels, you are undoubtedly excited about the opportunity this presents to make up ground in the AL West early on.

The Rangers got off to the hottest start in baseball at 9-1 prior to Tuesday's 5-4 loss to the Tigers. They were putting together every aspect of their game with dominant pitching and an unstoppable offense. This version of the Texas Rangers looked to be a better all-around team than last season's World Series team.

The Oakland Athletics spent the offseason rebuilding their offense, but they were clearly not going to match Texas' offensive output. The A's starting pitching has not required a whole lot of offense early on though. All indications from last season's pitching performances and the early string of dominance we have seen from Oakland starters show they won't need to equal Texas' offensive capabilities to compete in the division.

The LA Angels have a more imposing offense than Oakland, but have a less reliable rotation and bullpen. Still, the Angels are a threat in the West if their lineup scores enough runs to support their pitching staff. The Angels should get their own injured star, Kendry Morales, back soon, which will further improve their chances of making up ground and competing with Texas and Oakland down the stretch.

The Rangers' pitching has been spectacular to start the season, the best in the American League, but the expectation is that it will regress at some point. Texas will then become dependent on their lineup to pick up the slack.

Hamilton's injury gives the division competitors a chance to catch up if the Rangers should find difficulty to continue scoring runs during their MVP's absence. Texas will count on Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz to pick up the slack for the next two months.

Overall, I believe the Rangers will be just fine. They have enough offensive weapons that they should continue putting up enough runs to support their pitching. In the middle of June, they will get Hamilton back and be that much stronger.

Texas cannot afford to suffer any more injuries or prolonged slumps though, or they could see their early division lead slip away to either of their division competitors.


Brandon McClintock covers Major League Baseball for You can follow him on Twitter:   @BMcClintock_BR.


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