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Baseball Codependence: Texas Rangers and Josh Hamilton Just Can't Quit One Another

Josh Hamilton in 2008, which seems like a long time ago.
Josh Hamilton in 2008, which seems like a long time ago.
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At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Josh Hamilton and Rangers general manager Jon Daniels announced that Hamilton is returning to the Rangers in 2017 on a minor-league contract. In spring training, he'll be given a chance to win a job on the team's opening roster, probably at first base, a position the outfielder has never played before but hopes to learn.

"Josh could take great [batting practice] when he's 60," Daniels said. "So we want to get him out there in game situations and see what it looks like."

Late last August, it seemed like the Rangers were finally done with Hamilton. After an electric but ultimately disappointing first stretch with the team from 2008-2012, Hamilton had rejoined the Rangers from the Angels in May 2015, having worn out his welcome in Anaheim to the point that the Angels were willing to eat the vast majority of the remaining $80 million left on Hamilton's contract.

By mid-summer 2016, Hamilton was done with the team again. After injuries limited Hamilton to just a single rehab game with Double A Frisco in 2016, the Rangers released Hamilton, seemingly ending the run of the most talented player ever to put on a Rangers uniform.

Many Rangers fans welcomed Hamilton's departure. Despite his preternatural gifts, Hamilton exhausted fans. Enjoying his MVP season in 2010 meant suffering through his desultory performance in the 2011 playoffs. Watching as he hit four home runs in Baltimore on May 8, 2012, meant suffering through his horrendous second half slump the same year, the one that was capped off by a season-crushing misplay of a shallow fly ball on the last day of the season.

With Hamilton, you got the story of his comeback from crack cocaine to the pinnacle of major league success, but you also had to hear him preach about it, despite multiple, public relapses.

Tuesday we found out his time with Rangers is not over. If Hamilton can pick up first base well enough to not be disaster in the field, he'll get a chance to play. His legs are far too brittle for the rigors of playing outfield in the big leagues, but there is enough life in his bat that he would make an intriguing left-handed platoon partner for Mike Napoli — the right-handed slugger the Rangers are targeting in free agency — at first base.

With Hamilton in the fold — and Yu Darvish, Jonathan Lucroy and Adrian Beltre all in the last year or two of their contracts with the Rangers — 2017 is setting up like the last rodeo for the core of players behind the team's four division championships. Spring training is less than six weeks away.

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