So, you may have heard about this tattooed former drug addict who can send a baseball out of Yankee Stadium and into the stratasphere by now. Certainly 28 home runs--in the first round---of the Home Run Derby in baseball's most hallowed of grounds will garner the rest of the attention Josh Hamilton hadn't already received up to the halfway point of his dream season.
His magical first half leaves you searching for a superlative or word of praise that hasn't been said about him. Heck, the New York Times has done a couple of articles about the 27-year-old, not to mention that Sports Illustrated cover that renamed him "The Unbelievable Josh Hamilton."
When's the last time anyone can remember a Texas Ranger not named Walker receiving this much of the nation's attention? Instead of faux-kung fu kicking his way through bad guys, Hamilton has specialized in using his big-barreled bat to karate chop fastballs into the welcoming stands of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. And with a resurgent Rangers team staying afloat four games above .500 at the break (who saw that one coming?) even with a pitching staff as uneasy as ever, Hamilton has positioned himself as the spokesman for the revamped Rangers. He's their ambassador to the baseball world after years of mediocrity, and the new face of a type of team that Rangers fans aren't accustomed to. Sure, they put up loads of runs and can't pitch a lick, but instead of over-paid veterans knocking those homers and sending balls into the gap, a rough and tumble bunch of youngsters are busy piling up the fat offensive numbers.
Their lineup boasts three real MVP contenders in Hamilton, Milton Bradley, and Ian Kinsler, and plenty of rookies that are producing (David Murphy, Brandon Boggs) or are maybe a year away from being regular starters (Chris Davis, Max Ramirez). Not to mention, the pitching staff will only get better with time as injuries mend and young players progress. But what would all that mean without Hamilton there? Sure, had they not decided to ship off Edinson Volquez in exchange for him, they could possibly have a Cy Young contender instead of an MVP. Texas would have a solid anchor at the front of the rotation, but who would replace the 21 homers and 95 RBI of Hamilton? Marlon Byrd? Boggs?
But more importantly, had the Rangers not pulled the trigger on the deal, they could very likely be in a similar position standings-wise, staying alive, but out of reach of the Angels, but would they even be an afterthought in the national baseball conscienceness?
Not a chance.
I can only imagine how big team president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels' smiles were as they watched their wonder boy launch 500-foot shots into the dark New York sky. Sure it's tough to let go of a Cy Young candidate, especially in pitching-starved Arlington, but the Rangers got an MVP and public relations dream in return. Hamilton has given Rangers fans someone to be proud of. A look at the status updates on my Facebook account is a testament to that: over 15 different people referenced his Derby triumph. So while the Rangers claw their way back to relevance and respectability, they can thank their tattoed wonder boy for what has been accomplished and what is yet to come.