Remember the can of corn Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton dropped that would have ended the fourth inning, but instead allowed two runs to score in Oakland's division-clinching 12-5 win October 3? Out the window went the Rangers' third straight AL West crown. Texas needed one win against the upstart Athletics in three games, and didn't get it.
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"You guys have a hard time believing we can forget about it and move ahead," Hamilton said. "But that's what we get paid to do. We'll go home, regroup and go figure out what we have to do."
The dropped fly was the last straw for the once-drug addled star, who in Texas became a story of redemption and success. No way after his postseason breakdown was the hotshot center fielder going to get the 7-year deal worth $175 million that he was clamoring for. Angry, fed-up fans called him lackadaisical, spirit-less, a player who'd bench himself with so much as a sore pinky.
Now, it is being reported by CBS' Jon Heyman that the Mariners (and the offensive-challenged Baltimore Orioles) may have an interest and could enter the Hamilton sweepstakes after the slugger walks away from the Rangers' obligatory 1-year, $13.3 million offer, an offer that was made purely for the sake of gaining a compensatory pick when, as fully expected, Hamilton chooses to become a free agent.
Does it make sense to go after the American League's 2010 MVP? We say, why the hell not? From our standpoint, there seems to be many more positives than negatives.
First, the negatives: He's a 5-time All-Star, stipulated, but he turns 32 in May and has been injury prone over six seasons in the big leagues. He's missing an average of 40 games each year, which could and should give some pause to ownership thinking of inking any long-term deals. And yes, Hamilton does at times seem like he has serious trouble keeping his head in the game. In his final 42 at-bats, most of them in the postseason, he struck out 18 times.
On the positive side of the ledger, however, there are plenty of good reasons to pursue the superstar.
We know what kind of numbers he can put up, though Hamilton, as King 5 sports writer Joel Knip notes, has done little to inspire big dollars from his performances to date at Safeco. Writes Knip:
But is Josh Hamilton worth the big payday? In 2012, he hit .285 with 43 HR's and 128 RBI over 148 games. The big numbers came thanks to a hitter friendly park. On the other end of the spectrum, Hamilton's stats at Safeco are almost Sexson-like. Over six season, the 2010 batting champion gathered 28 hits over 125 at-bats at the spacious Safeco Field. That's a paltry .224 average. Of course, the M's are moving in the fences for 2013, but is it enough?
Let's consider some other factors. M's attendance has dropped by 50 percent in the past 10 years. Griffey is long gone, and soon Ichiro will be but a happy, distant memory. The team needs some jazz, something to get people excited about. Raising season-ticket holder prices was a PR nightmare, the way it was done.
As The Seattle Times' august sports writer Larry Stone columnized yesterday:
But given the depth of skepticism, distrust and downright anger directed at the team right now by its fan base, I do think that a big-name, big-time acquisition (or two) is essential just to show that they are not going to go down the rebuilding road indefinitely -- that they are indeed focused on taking the next step to contention. Ultimately, winning is the only thing that will win back the trust, but it would take supreme confidence by the Mariners in the continuing progress of their prospects and young players to proceed into 2013 without getting a prime-time player to hasten the process. And judging by Jack Zduriencik's on-the-record statement about being willing to up the payroll, I believe they understand it, too. I would be disappointed if their pursuit of Hamilton, or any other prominent free agent, isn't more aggressive than what we saw last year with Prince Fielder.
Look, M's fans need to feel a little hope, and Hamilton is about as good as it gets in this year's mediocre free agent market. They know that Ackley, Seager and Smoak in the middle of the order are not going to take this team to the promise land.
Sign Hamilton and maybe we'll hear no more talk that "King Felix," who has endured far too many outings wasted by the team's abysmal offense, will move on when his contract winds up at the end of the 2014 season. It might also convince the Mariners' ace that there serious players in a division that has left them behind. Thank god for the Houston Astros.
The fences are coming in. Put Hamilton inside those newly-moved walls -- but please keep him out of center field.