There is a lot of talk in the media about Josh Hamilton's latest injury. For those who somehow missed it today, Hamilton broke a bone in his arm trying to tag up on a foul pop up. The catcher had left the plate uncovered, and it would take perfect execution to get him out. It was a foot race to the plate. Hamilton had to like his chances against catcher Victor Martinez, hardly the most fleet of foot player on the field. Turns out the Tigers executed the play perfectly and Hamilton was barely out.
If that were the end of the story, it would simply have been a stupid decision to try and score a run that way in the first inning, but Hamilton broke his arm diving head first for the plate. Had Hamilton not injured himself, the play would have been forgotten, but Hamilton suffered another freak injury, ensuring the fact that this play will become a staple on SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight for at least the rest of the week.
Talking heads will undoubtedly call the play stupid, questioning why Hamilton would run on a play like this. They are correct that Hamilton had no business running on the play, but there is no reason to criticize him in light of his injury. It was a freak injury. Players are hurt diving into home all the time. There are numerous hazards in the game of baseball, and injuries can happen at any point.
Hamilton has been injured on a few freak plays like this in his career, and for some reason he is being criticized for his style of play. Chase Utley is facing a similar dilemma this season as he tries to overcome knee issues. Analysts have somehow reached the conclusion that Utley needs to play more under control to reduce the wear and tear on his body.
What these analysts fail to realize is that these players are playing the game the way they were taught; the way all children were taught to play the game. Hamilton and Utley play the game of baseball with an utter disregard for bodily harm. True baseball fans enjoy watching Utley sprint to first base as if he would never ground out again, or seeing Hamilton throw himself into an outfield fence to rob an extra base hit.
When Hamilton returns to the field, there will be calls for him to play at a slower pace and try to stay out of harm's way. The Rangers and Hamilton would be wise to ignore such calls. The Rangers have already moved him from CF to LF as a precaution, sacrificing some of his defensive value.
Asking Hamilton to play at a slower speed would be like buying a Ferrari and leaving it in the garage with a cover. It is simply wasteful.