Joshua Holt Hamilton
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 4", Weight 205-240 lb.
- High School Athens Drive High School
- Debut April 2, 2007
Josh Hamilton was the first selection in the 1999 amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and signed by scout Mark McKnight. As a senior at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, NC, outfielder Hamilton hit .529 with a school record 13 home runs and 35 RBI in 25 games. After being drafted, he struggled both with the level of professional play and with a substance abuse problem that led to several suspensions. The heavy drinking and drug taking threatened to end his career before it had even started, but he got his life back under control in late 2005, when he swore off drinking. Teams that have signed him since have instituted a zero tolerance policy in terms of substance abuse. It hasn't been an easy struggle, however. Teams have had to assign a full-time employee to be a "support partner" for Hamilton, and he has had a few relapses since.
Major League Baseball re-instated Hamilton on June 30, 2006 from the restricted list. The Devil Rays optioned him to the Hudson Valley Renegades, of the New York-Penn League. However, about a month later, he was sidelined by a knee injury. At the time, he was hitting .260 with 5 RBI in 15 games. On December 7th that year, Hamilton was selected in the 2006 Rule V draft by the Chicago Cubs and then traded for cash to the Cincinnati Reds. He made his Major League debut with the Reds on April 2, 2007.
Hamilton hit .292/.368/.554 with 19 HR in 298 AB for the 2007 Reds, for an impressive 131 OPS+ in an excellent comeback. He missed time with an inflamed digestive tract and a sprained wrist. Hamilton's offensive statistics suffered greatly from a lack of offensive support around him in the lineup and finished the year with only 47 RBIs, despite hitting 19 home runs. After the season, the Reds traded him to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.
Hamilton became an immediate stand-out with Texas in 2008, leading the American League in the three triple crown categories during the first months of the season. He was the American League's Player of the Month in both April and May that year. At the All-Star break, Hamilton already had 21 home runs and led the AL with 95 RBI, a whopping 25 more than anyone else, with Chicago White Sox slugger Carlos Quentin 2nd with 70 RBI. He finished the year with 32 homers and a league-leading 130 RBI. Now a bona fide star, he was voted to the All-Star team again in 2009, even though he was in the midst of an injury-riddled season. His batting average fell from .304 to .268, and he only managed 10 homers and 54 RBI in 89 games.
Josh Hamilton was voted the American League MVP in 2010, when he led the Rangers to the first World Series participation in franchise history. That season, he topped the AL in batting average at .359, slugging percentage at .633 and OPS at 1.044, while slugging 40 doubles and 32 homers in 133 games. He msised some playing time in September, after hurting his ribs running into the outfield wall, but was back in great form for the playoffs. He was the MVP of the ALCS after batting .350 with 4 homers and 7 RBI when the Rangers defeated the New York Yankees in six games to reach the World Series. However, like most of his teammates he was stifled by the San Francisco Giants' great pitching in the Fall Classic, only managing 2 hits - one a solo homer - in 20 at-bats.
The Rangers got a scare in the following off-season when Hamilton was admitted to a Dallas-area hospital with pneumonia. However the illness was diagnosed early and he was released five days later and allowed to resume preparations for the 2011. The good health did not last long however: on April 12 he broke his humerus bone just below the shoulder on an unsuccessful attempt to score from third on a shallow pop-up in the first inning of a game against Detroit. After the game, he blamed third base coach Dave Anderson for the decision to send him home, saying it was "dumb"; Anderson had noticed that home plate had been left uncovered on the pop-up, although the decision to slide head-first, which caused the injury was not his. Initial prognosis was that Hamilton would miss two months of action. He made that prognosis lie as he was back in the line-up on May 23rd, and, with his usual flair for the dramatic, marked his return with a homer off John Danks as the Rangers beat the Chicago White Sox, 4-0. Hamilton was involved in a tragic incident on July 7th. Playing left field at The Ballpark in Arlington, he picked up a foul ball and tossed it to a fan who had called for it in the stands; tragically, 39-year-old Shannon Stone, a firefighter form Brownwood, TX who was attending the game with his 6-year-old son, leaned out over the railing to catch the ball and tumbled over, falling 20 feet to his death. Hamilton was profoundly shaken by the accident. Manager Ron Washington offered to give him the day off for the team's next game on July 9th, but he chose to play, and in the 9th inning hit a dramatic two-out, two-run home run off Andrew Bailey to beat the Oakland A's, 7-6. Until then, he had not looked like himself, going 0 for 4 until the dramatic blast. After the game, he said that he had been continually thinking about and praying for Stone's family since the accident. He finished the year with a batting line of .298/.346/.546 in 121 games, with 25 homers and 94 RBI. The Rangers repeated as NL West champions and he did well in the first two rounds of the postseason, hitting .267 in the ALDS and .308 with 4 doubles in the ALCS as the Rangers returned to the World Series. He was bothered by a wrist injury in the epic series against the St. Louis Cardinals and contributed little over the first few contests. He almost became the Series' hero in Game 6, when he hit a two-run homer off Jason Motte in the 10th inning that should have given the Rangers their first Championship. However, the Rangers' bullpen was unable to hold the lead, the Cardinals came back to tie the game for the second time while down to their last out in the bottom of the 10th, and won it in the 11th on David Freese's homer, going on to also win Game 7 and deprive Texas of the title.
In January 2009, Hamilton was involved in an incident in which he drank to excess in a bar in Tempe, AZ. He relapsed in Dallas, TX in early 2012. That incident came after his previous support partner, coach Johnny Narron, had joined the Milwaukee Brewers in the off-season, leaving Hamilton on his own. Hamilton quickly apologized for the incident, explaining that recovery was a difficult process and that "Everybody can't be fine all the time. It's OK to show weakness." On February 7th, the Rangers announced they had hired Shayne Kelley, a former college baseball assistant coach, to be a major league staff assistant whose principal duties would be to serve as Josh's "accountability partner". Kelley had worked with the son of Rangers Vice-President Chuck Morgan at the University of Alabama and was also known to Hamilton's agent, Michael Moye. Hamilton later announced that he was undergoing counseling, because the slip-up was a serious issue and that he wanted to prevent any further relapse.
Hamilton managed to put the dependency issue behind him at the start of the 2012 season, as he won American League Player of the Month honors for April. He led the circuit with 9 home runs, 25 RBI, 64 total bases and a .744 slugging percentage, while his .395 batting average, 20 runs scored and 34 hits placed him second. If that wasn't enough, he topped that on May 8th when he became the 16th player in major league history to hit four homers in one game, managing the feat against the Baltimore Orioles in a 10-3 win. All of the homers were two-run shots, the first two coming off Jake Arrieta and the others against Zach Phillips and Darren O'Day. Carlos Delgado had been the last batter to homer four times in a game, on September 25, 2003. Hamilton also hit a double that day, for an American League-record 18 total bases. That year, he became only the second player in major league history to hit 18 homers in his team's first 34 games, after Cy Williams of the Philadelphia Phillies in 1923. On May 27th, he became the majors' first 20-homer man with a walk-off two-run shot off Toronto's Jason Frasor in the 13th inning to give Texas a come-from-behind 8-7 victory. He was named the AL's Player of the Month for the second straight month in May, repeating his performance from 2008, after batting .344 with 12 homers, 30 RBI and 19 runs scored. The one thing that could stop him was an intestinal virus, which forced him to miss a few games in mid-June. He made the All-Star team for the 5th time, but hit a huge slump in July, only batting .145 for the month when he was given a rest on July 28th; team President Nolan Ryan had criticized his approach at the plate a few days earlier, and fans had booed him during a particularly difficult game against the Chicago White Sox on July 27th. He later explained that his slump was the result of personal issues, more specifically his attempt to kick his tobacco habit. He missed some playing time with a sinus problem that caused blurred vision in September, but he returned to belt his 43rd homer in his first game back on September 24th, putting him back ahead of the Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in the home run race. However, he did not hit another homer during the final week, allowing Cabrera to win the Triple Crown. Worse, the Rangers were caught and passed by the upstart Oakland A's during that week, with Hamilton being the target of criticism for his seemingly lackadaisical play during that crucial week. When the Rangers lost the Wild Card Game to the Baltimore Orioles in part due to Josh's costly error in the outfield, fans began to question whether the Rangers should attempt to re-sign him after the season, something that seemed unthinkable only a few months earlier.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
On December 13, 2012, Hamilton signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Joining the Angels in spring training, he made some disparaging remarks about Texas fans, something rather surprising for an athlete who was adulated during his time in Dallas. "Texas, especially Dallas, has always been a football town. They're supportive, but they also got a little spoiled at the same time, pretty quickly. There's true baseball fans in Texas but it's not a true baseball town." It was apparently a reaction to having been booed when he had struggled at the end of the previous season. He managed to stay healthy all year and play 151 games for the Angels in 2013, although his production at the plate was way down, with a batting line of .250/.307/.432. His home run total was cut by more than half, sown to 21, and his RBIs fell from 128 to 79. He was of course moving from a very favorable hitting environment to a much tougher one, but the drop was not caused solely by park effects, as his OPS+ also plummeted, from 141 to 108, his lowest since 2009. With 1B Albert Pujols, signed a year earlier by the Angels, also proving to be an expensive bust, Angels fans were rightly worried that they were stuck with two aging and untradeable players for years to come.
Hamilton started the 2014 season red hot, however, as he hit .444 over his first 8 games, leading the AL in runs scored and OPS after a week and garnering Player of the Week honors. On April 8th though, he slid head-first into first base in a game against the Seattle Mariners and banged his thumb against the bag; he tore a ligament as a result, requiring surgery and a long lay-off. He was out until June 3rd and managed to stay healthy for the next three months, before missing most of September with a shoulder surgery. He played only 89 games as a result, hitting .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs. He clearly was not at 100% during the postseason, as he was 0 for 13 in the Angels' three-game sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in the Division Series and was heartily booed by hometown fans.
Rest was not sufficient to heal his shoulder in the off-season and in early February, the Angels announced that he would undergo surgery, putting him out of action for two months just as 2015 spring training was about to get under way. Another issue surfaced on February 25th when Hamilton traveled to New York, NY to meet with the Commissioner's office about an undisclosed disciplinary issue. Media reports quickly surfaced explaining that the problem was a relapse of his substance abuse problems, the question being now how he could get his addiction issues back under control, and what sort of disciplinary measures he might face as a result. There was also some questioning over the fact that Hamilton was rehabilitating from his shoulder operation in spring training with the Angels, but was doing so in Houston, TX instead. In fact, the Angels had not even assigned him a locker at their spring training facility, a conspicuous absence that was quickly noted by reporters who speculated that the team may well have been aware that there was something seriously wrong. The Commissioner's office decided not to issue Hamilton with a suspension, after an arbitrator had recommended against it, but Angels owner Arte Moreno said on April 10th that his contract contained a clause protecting the team against a relapse and that as a result he would likely not play for the team again. The MLBPA immediately protested this statement, saying that such a clause would have required union approval, which was not the case. There was speculation that Moreno was trying to find a way to nullify Hamilton's expensive contract, given that he had done little on the field in two years to justify the investment the Angels had made in him. For his part, Moreno claimed: "This is not about money." As if he did not have enough problems already, Hamilton also filed for divorce from his wife Katie at that time, amidst talk that she had been the one who had wanted him to leave Texas all along, in order to promote her fledgling acting career nearer Hollywood. On April 24th, reports emerged that Hamilton had been traded back to the Rangers, with the Angels assuming the bulk of his remaining contract. Because of the complex nature of the financial transaction - no other player was involved - the trade had to wait for approval from the Commissioner's office and the Players Association. The Angels had to swallow $68 million to make the deal, the most money a team had ever paid to get rid of a contract. The deal was completed on April 27th, with the Angels set to receive either cash or a player to be named later (in the end, it was only cash). For his part, Hamilton had to complete his rehab from shoulder surgery before playing again for the Rangers, but he was visibly relieved to have put a very difficult episode behind him, as he explained that he now understood how much his day-to-day environment had to do with whether or not he could keep his demons under control. It was not all hugs and kisses however; Angels manager Mike Scioscia criticized Hamilton for his seeming lack of remorse at letting down his employers and teammates and had failed to take proper responsibility for his actions.
Back to Texas
Hamilton was cleared to join the AAA Round Rock Express on May 10, 2015. After a couple of weeks with Round Rock, he was called up to Texas on May 25th. In the starting line-up against the Cleveland Indians that day, he went 0 for 3 with 2 strikeouts and dropped a ball in the outfield, although he did walk and score a run, but the important thing was that he was back playing major league baseball. It took him three games to get his first hit, on May 27th, after which he was immediately thrown out at second base trying to stretch it into a double. He was 1 for 11 in those games, but was playing with a vigor and energy he had not displayed in a number of years, a clear sign that his mind was in a better place. On May 29th, he hit his first two homers of the year in a 7-4 win over the Boston Red Sox, then on May 30th, he ended the game with a pinch-hit double off Koji Uehara that drove in Hanser Alberto and Prince Fielder for a 4-3 win over Boston. However, just when it seemed he was going to be a big offensive contributor again, he suffered another setback, a strained left hamstring that occurred on his game-winning double, putting him back on the disabled list until June 30th. He played regularly from then until mid-August, coinciding with Texas making a move to gain a claim on the second wild card slot in the AL. However, he was then slowed again with inflammation in his knee, putting him back on the DL until the beginning of September, then on September 11th he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery, with a hope of returning before the end of the season. He did return on September 18th and played regularly the last week of the season to get ready for the postseason. He ended the year at .253 with 8 homers and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He then started all five games of the Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays but only went 3 for 18 with a double.
Injury issues continued to dog him in spring training in 2016, as he arrived in spring training with a swollen left knee. He had to undergo treatment and was projected to be out until early May. On February 28th, the Rangers signed free agent IF Ian Desmond and announced that they planned to use him as their regular left fielder all year, raising more questions about Josh's health issues. On May 23rd, the Rangers announced that Hamilton would require another surgery on his knee and would not play that season. He was handed his unconditional release on August 23rd, but it was with the understanding that he would be welcome to try out with the team if he had recovered by the following year. Indeed, on January 17, 2017, the Rangers signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. He was also asked to get ready to play first base in order to minimize the pounding on his knees. It did not take long for the comeback attempt to hit a snag however, as on February 22nd, before even the first Cactus League game of spring training, the Rangers announced that Hamilton was headed to Houston to consult an orthopedic surgeon about discomfort in his surgically-repaired left knee. He was back in camp the next day after the exam revealed no structural damage but the reprieve was short as the pain soon returned. He had another exam the following week and underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair some damaged cartilage on February 27th, putting him out of action for a minimum of eight weeks. While working out to regain strength, he injured his other knee in April, prompting the Rangers to release him on April 21st, likely marking the end of the line for him as a player.
- 2000 MVP South Atlantic League Charleston RiverDogs
- 5-time AL All-Star (2008-2012)
- AL MVP (2010)
- 2010 ALCS MVP
- 3-time AL Silver Slugger Award (2008, 2010 & 2012)
- AL Batting Average Leader (2010)
- AL Slugging Percentage Leader (2010)
- AL OPS Leader (2010)
- AL Total Bases Leader (2008)
- AL RBI Leader (2008)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (2008 & 2010-2013)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2008, 2010 & 2012)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2012)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 3 (2008, 2010 & 2012)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2012)
|Joe Mauer||Josh Hamitlon||Justin Verlander|
- Bob Nightengale: "Josh Hamilton returns to Texas, perhaps all the wiser", USA Today Sports, April 27, 2015. 
- T.R. Sullivan: "Rangers eager to insert Hamilton into struggling lineup", mlb.com, April 25, 2015. 
- T.R. Sullivan: "Hamilton harnessing thunder once again", mlb.com, February 20, 2017.