Nolan Ryan questions Josh Hamilton
Richard Durrett ESPNDallas.com
Texas Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said the timing of Josh Hamilton’s decision to quit smokeless tobacco this summer “couldn’t have been worse.”
“You would’ve liked to have thought that if he was going to do that, that he would’ve done it in the offseason or waited until this offseason to do it,” Ryan said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s “Galloway and Company” this week. “So the drastic effect that it had on him and the year that he was having up to that point in time when he did quit, you’d have liked that he would’ve taken a different approach to that.”
Hamilton, who began his quest to quit dipping in late June, admitted in August that he was dealing with a “discipline” issue and said it was discipline at the plate and discipline in “being obedient to the Lord in quitting chewing tobacco.”
His struggle with tobacco coincided with the one at the plate. After earning AL player of the month honors in April and May, Hamilton hit .223 in June and .177 in July and had eight homers and 27 RBIs combined in those two months. He had belted 21 homers and driven in 57 RBIs in the first two months of the season combined.
Chewing tobacco wasn’t his only issue; he missed five games in September with blurred vision and balance issues that were attributed to a drying of the cornea caused by too much caffeine.
Rangers officials said then that Hamilton, 31, saw an optometrist and was diagnosed with ocular keratitis.
“I was loading up on caffeine, and I’m out there in the bright lights,” Hamilton said then. “I can’t control my eyes. They are stuck.”
Hamilton finished the season in disappointing fashion, dropping a routine fly ball in center field in the division-deciding game Oct. 3 with Oakland. The error turned a 5-5 game into a 7-5 A’s lead, and Oakland ended up winning the AL West title, snatching it from the Rangers, who blew a five-game lead with nine to play.
Hamilton was 0-for-4 in Friday’s AL wild-card game loss to the Baltimore Orioles. He saw eight pitches in those four at-bats and swung at six of them. He struck out late in the game on three pitches as he represented the tying run.
Ryan was asked if he believed Hamilton “quit” on the club down the stretch.
“You know, that’s really a tough term to say somebody quit,” Ryan said. “He had an issue, he was under a magnifying glass and things didn’t go well. If he would have gotten a couple of hits in those key situations or if he hadn’t dropped that ball in Oakland, would people be saying that? No, they wouldn’t be saying that. It didn’t look good. But do I think he quit? I have no reason to think he quit. It didn’t go well. It didn’t look good and only Josh knows what was in his heart and what was in his mind.”
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said this week that the club will not offer Hamilton a contract before he reaches the open market as a free agent.
“If you’ve gone this far, you’re going to test the market,” Daniels said. “The realities are when a guy goes out and tests the market and it’s this close, you’re not going to pre-empt it. I think he’s going to go out and test the market and see what’s out there and get back to us.
“No door has been closed. We’re also very realistic about when a star player hits free agency at this point and the history of them returning to their original club. So we have to prepare both ways and prepare the club for the possibility that he’s not back.”
Despite his two-month slump and the way the season ended, Hamilton still managed to hit .285 and finish with 43 home runs and 128 RBIs.
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