10. With Josh Hamilton it's always when, not if. And now you know why a lot of us were cringing and complaining when we saw him sliding on the rain-delay tarp in Baltimore last Friday night. He's one of the best players in baseball, but also one of the most injury-prone.
9. And do I partially blame third base coach Dave Anderson? You bet. He admitted to trying to "steal a run" in that situation. But you've got to consider the risk-reward. The reward? A 2-0, first-inning lead in Detroit that will continue to set an aggressive, successful tone in the best start in Rangers history. The risk? The reigning AL MVP won't swing a bat for at least a month and likely won't be back 100 percent until June. If Anderson barks "on the bag!" while third baseman Brandon Inge catches the ball, nobody says a word.
8. That said, I certainly don't like Josh throwing his coach under the bus. Says Hamilton, "I listened to my third-base coach. That's a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. 'Nobody's at home, nobody's at home.' I was like, 'Dude, I don't want to do this. Something's going to happen.' But I listened to my coach." If you've played baseball or even beer-league co-ed softball, you know that any time the ball is in your vision it's ultimately your call. Did Anderson set the table? Yep. But it was Hamilton who assessed the situation and took off for home, and trouble.
7. I admire Josh's unabashed faith and I know that "God works in mysterious ways" and all that. But, geez, haven't we learned enough lessons through Josh yet? Can't we just put checkmarks by salvation and redemption and enjoy his, um, God-given talent as an elite athlete?
6. Damn you, Pete Rose! If Charlie Hustle wouldn't have made the head-first dive look so cool in the '70s, maybe Hamilton would've still been perfecting the Maury Wills feet-first hook slide. He might have been out at home, but he wouldn't be out for two months. Says Anderson, "I always want him to slide feet first no matter what he does." GM Jon Daniels said "in a perfect world" Josh would slide feet-first. The Rangers world is still bright, but as of today the 2011 season is far from perfect.
5. With Hamilton's past and passion, there are always going to be risks. Whether it's whipped cream and chicks in Arizona or daring dashes in Detroit, he's as fragile as he is fantastic. Kudos to the Rangers for putting off the mega seven-year deal last winter and only signing him to a two-year, $24 million contract. Looks pretty savvy this morning.
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4. As for reliever Darren O'Day walking two in the 9th to get to Miguel Cabrera in yesterday's 5-4 loss, I'm pretty sure you were warned.
3. Out in Surprise, Arizona at spring training last month, I got into a good discussion with manager Ron Washington about Hamilton. I suggested the Rangers were a better team with David Murphy in the lineup, with him in left field and Josh in center. "Lots of gaps to cover," Wash smiled, "lots of walls to run into." His point was Josh is such a precious commodity that the Rangers were going to protect him. Ironically, yesterday he was the DH. But I think the Rangers should have some other limits on Josh, the Hamilton Hallmarks if you will. If they're going to keep him out of center, why not also prevent him from sliding head-first or not giving him the green light to try to score from third on an infield pop-up? In '09 he played only 89 games. In '10 he missed September. Both injuries were sustained in aggressive, wall-crashing catches. And now in '11 he'll miss 53 games if he's out eight weeks. I know "That's the way baseball go," but with a player as valuable and volatile as Josh you have to control baseball's direction as much as possible.
2. Is this a significant, ground-shaking blow to the Rangers? Yes. Is it terminal? Nope. The plan is to make Murphy the left fielder, use Mitch Moreland as a fourth outfielder and platoon Chris Davis (called up from AAA Round Rock) and Michael Young and Mike Napoli at first base/DH. Thanks to clutch hitting by Murphy, the Rangers survived after Hamilton fractured ribs crashing into a Minnesota wall last September. Down the stretch they went 15-12 and comfortably held onto the AL West. They'll survive this too. But will they be in first place when he returns?
1. Hamilton himself calls it a "stupid" play. I'd go with "unnecessary," maybe "superfluous." I didn't like the tenor or timing of the thing any more than I'd okay Dirk Nowitzki diving into the stands to save a rebound in the pre-season or Tony Romo diving head-first for a first down on the season's first possession. You want Josh playing aggressively, but trying to score via head-first slide on an infield pop-up in inning 1 of game 11 is just ... check that, I think "stupid" fits.