Troy O'Leary's Cow
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"With the first pick of the 1999 draft, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays select .... Josh Hamilton, outfielder, Raleigh, North Carolina."

"With the second pick of the 1999 draft, the Florida Marlins select ... Josh Beckett, pitcher, Spring, Texas."

And so the molds of the two nascent Florida franchises were, seemingly, forever cast.

The Devil Dogs had the first pick.  The choice.  Between two specimens, two "can't miss" high school kids.  Josh-the-hitter.  Or Josh-the-pitcher.  Which would it be?  Look at the two franchises even now, and you can still see the genetic personality strains embodied in that choice.  The Rays, stocked with young hitting, the Fish, stocked with young pitching.  As if it's woven into the franchise DNA. 

The conventional wisdom says pitching beats hitting most of the time.  Four years later, Josh #2 was turning in a historic, championship-clinching performance.

Josh #1?  Surely, if you're reading this post, you know something of the sordid, cautionary tale.  At the time his namesake was on top of his teammates' shoulders and the baseball world, not only his career, but his life itself was on the rocks, the young wunderkind having succumbed to a crippling addiction to crack cocaine, and out of baseball altogether. 

A "Joshua" hadn't been so out of control since Matthew Broderick almost hacked America into global thermonuclear war in 1983's science fiction classic, War Games.

Favorite line: "I would p-ss on a spark plug if I thought it would help!"

The last time a Hamilton had gone down this hard and fast, Aaron Burr was charged with murder.

Let's do a little exercise in juxtaposition:

          JOSH #1

         JOSH #2

Made major league debut in September, 2001

Out of organized baseball by July, 2002

Sports silly looking nanny-goat beard

Tattooed like Dennis Rodman

"Plagued" by blister problems

Plagued by hardcore drug problems

Has earned over $12 million in salary alone playing baseball

Has kept grounds, cleaned toilets, and taken out trash at a minor league park just for a chance to work out.

Was romantically linked to LeeAnn Tweeden                

I don't have a corresponding entry, here.  I just wanted an excuse to post the following picture of LeeAnn Tweeden                  

 

And now, Josh #2 is a proud member of the Boston Red Sox.  And Josh #1 ... is a proud member of the Cincinnati Reds???

That's right, it looks like it's going to happen.  After clawing his way back into baseball's good graces, Hamilton was selected away from the Rays in the Rule 5 draft, and - lookie here - is tearing it up this Spring.  As of this writing, the still-only-25-year-old is a scorching 14-for-26, and with his immense talent still revealing itself, twinkling like a streetlight through the fog, it seems unthinkable that the Reds will offer him back when the month draws to a close.  Welcome to The Show, #1.  What a long strange trip it's been.

Is it possible that a player can win both the Rookie of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year in the same season?*  Nothing in Hamilton's life has ever really added up, or been logical.  So why not?  It will be fun to follow.

By the way, getting back to the 1999 draft, if the Rays really were dead-set on using that #1 pick for a hitter:

Defending AL MVP Justin Morneau went #89

Former NL MVP Albert Pujols went #402

BREAKING!  Post has been up 10 minutes, and it's already time to supplement it.  Today's Spring report:

Josh Hamilton went 2-for-2 with two RBI and a walk in the Reds' 6-3 win over the Yankees on Tuesday night.
Hamilton isn't only batting .571, but he has just three strikeouts and five base on balls in his 28 at-bats.

========================================

* Observation courtesy of FanNation member Andy Spark.

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