There’s a les­son for Rangers

A team’s kind­ness to a player is for­got­ten in face of big money.

Austin American-Statesman - - C SPORTS - Jamie Harms / FOR amer­i­can-states­man

They traded away their best young pitcher for him.

They gave him a full­time, Bi­ble-car­ry­ing watch­dog.

They put up with the in­juries. The spe­cial ac­com­mo­da­tions. The days and nights when he said he wasn’t ready to play.

They even lent an un­der­stand­ing ear when he went out drink­ing.

No­body in base­ball knew Josh Hamil­ton bet­ter than the Texas Rangers. And no mat­ter what was said or how many porch lights they claim to have left on for Hamil­ton the past few days, the Rangers knew him well enough not to want him.

Not at first, at least. And be­fore Thurs­day af­ter­noon’s un­set­tling news, really not even at the last.

As far back as a year ago, the Rangers had been look­ing for a hit­ter - a bet­ter fit, they felt - to re­place Hamil­ton’s left­handed bat.

But in Jan­uary, free agent Prince Fielder couldn’t turn down the Detroit Tigers’ nine-year, $214 mil­lion of­fer, and then the Cincin­nati Reds sur­prised ev­ery­one in April by lock­ing up their star first base­man, Joey Votto, for 10 years and $225 mil­lion. The Rangers cov­eted both.

Even as the 2012 sea­son ended on a dis­ap­point­ing, per­plex­ing note, the Rangers pri­vately had Hamil­ton’s next heir ap­par­ent in sight: Ari­zona out­fielder Justin Up­ton, age 24.

So go ahead and look around, they told Hamil­ton. Test the mar­ket, be­cause that’s what free agents do.

Two re­marks, mean­while, had pro­vided a win­dow to the Hamil­ton fam­ily’s own think­ing.

“I don’t feel like I owe the Rangers,” Josh said in ad­dress­ing his con­tract sta­tus at the start of spring train­ing.

And then Katie Hamil­ton, his wife, mem­o­rably told Sports Il­lus­trated, “Fans and re­porters are so far off base with where we are ... They keep say­ing, ‘Josh needs Texas. He needs the com­fort of this team.’

“Uh, we need Je­sus. We need God. He goes with us wher­ever we are.”

What­ever com­fort the Hamil­tons once felt in Texas, nev­er­the­less, it had to be shaken by the anger that fans di­rected to­ward Josh as the Rangers stum­bled to the fin­ish.

And then came the An­gels. The five-year, $125 mil­lion con­tract that they gave Hamil­ton this week rep­re­sented the wel­com­ing arms the Rangers never seemed ea­ger to of­fer.

Did the Rangers want to keep Hamil­ton? That’s what they had been say­ing lately. And the way off-sea­son things have been hap­pen­ing, they were prob­a­bly speak­ing a bit of truth.

More di­rectly, though, if they knew, would they have wanted to keep Hamil­ton from sign­ing with the An­gels? Of course - even, I think, at five years and $125 mil­lion.

But sign­ing with the AL West ri­val Los An­ge­les An­gels of Ana­heim has a de­cided mea­sure of spite to it, es­pe­cially do­ing so with­out the promised re­turn phone call.

To Rangers fans, Hamil­ton’s ca­reer here has gone from Lazarus to Ju­das.

When he re­turns to Ar­ling­ton next April in an An­gels uni­form, the wel­come is likely to get ugly. The an­nual A-Rod boofests will seem like pep ral­lies com­pared to the re­cep­tion Hamil­ton will get.

For Rangers gen­eral man­ager Jon Daniels and his gang, Thurs­day’s sucker punch should be a les­son.

No mat­ter how much you do for a player, no mat­ter how many times you in­dulge him, don’t ex­pect any cour­te­sies in re­turn.

For the An­gels, mean­while, the head-scratch­ings and headaches are coming. Josh Hamil­ton can hit the ball a mile — on the days when he’s fo­cused enough to see it.

It’s hard to imag­ine, frankly, that the Hamil­tons will find com­fort in fast-mov­ing, fast-liv­ing South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

The guys at TMZ prob­a­bly can’t wait.

Josh Hamil­ton was in­dulged sev­eral times dur­ing his stay with the Rangers. Now, he’s prop­erty of the An­gels for the next five sea­sons.

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