Hamilton's heroic night prompts contract talk
Free agent after 2012, Rangers star refuses to be distracted
BALTIMORE -- Josh Hamilton tied a Major League record with four home runs against the Orioles on Tuesday night, and the immediate reaction was more widespread speculation on his contract situation.Hamilton is unsigned beyond this season and can become a free agent after the season. Hamilton said Wednesday he has "no clue" of what will transpire between him and the Rangers before he files for free agency in November. "I'm just waiting around like you are," Hamilton said. "I'm not stressed out about it, and I'm not letting it be a distraction. I just want to keep playing good and putting up good numbers. [The Rangers] want to see things play out, see my health and the way I play ..." Added Hamilton with a mischievous joking grin, "I can't wait until the end of the season." The Rangers have been maintaining ongoing discussions with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye, since the offseason. General manager Jon Daniels, who was bombarded with questions about it on Wednesday, said he prefers to keep those discussions quiet, even though rampant speculation on Hamilton's situation remains a highly public topic of discussion.
Four! Hamilton joins club
|Carlos Delgado||Toronto||9/25/2003||Tampa Bay|
|Shawn Green||Los Angeles||5/23/2002||Milwaukee|
|Mark Whiten||St. Louis||9/7/1993||Cincinnati|
|Willie Mays||San Francisco||4/30/1961||Milwaukee*|
|Pat Seerey||Chicago||7/18/1948||Philadelphia (AL)|
|Lou Gehrig||New York||6/3/1932||Philadelphia|
"There's nothing new to say about the situation," Daniels said. "We want Josh to remain a Ranger for a long time, and he's expressed that the feeling is mutual. Beyond that, we are not going to discuss any potential negotiations, with Josh or other players."The biggest concern with Hamilton and a possible long-term contract is health. Hamilton, who turns 31 later this month, has been on the disabled list five times in his first five seasons as well as missing most of September 2010 because of a rib cage injury. He still won the American League Most Valuable Player Award that season. He played 156 games in 2008, the only season he has really been able to stay injury free. "It's weird, even though I have been healthy, except for that one year, I'm still putting up numbers that other guys wouldn't put up for a full year," Hamilton said. "It's something they can think about, but not me." Hamilton said he has not been thinking about his contract situation, or at least let it distract him from what he's doing out on the field. "I've been able to completely block it out," Hamilton said. "I pray all the time that God has us where he wants to be next season. If it's Texas, it's Texas. If it's not, I hope it's somewhere where he wants us to be. Right now I'm under contract with the Texas Rangers and trying to be the best player I can be." He is pretty good right now. After going 5-for-5 with four home runs and a double on Tuesday night, Hamilton went into Wednesday's game with the Orioles leading the AL with a .406 batting average, 14 home runs and 36 RBIs. Those are the three categories that make up the Triple Crown, and only 11 players have ever led their league in all three categories. Carl Yastrzemski was the last player to accomplish that, in 1967 for the Red Sox. Ted Williams and Rogers Hornsby did it twice, while Nap Lajoie, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Chuck Klein, Joe Medwick, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson did it once. All are in the Hall of Fame. "I don't think about that," said Hamilton, who led the league in RBIs in 2008 and won a batting title in 2010. "I don't want to think about something that has a very, very, very slim chance of happening. I just go out and have fun and help my team win. I want to win the World Series." Hamilton's 14 home runs through 30 games are the most in franchise history. He is also only the fourth Major League player since 1920 to have at least 14 home runs and 36 RBIs through 30 games. He is impressing just about everybody in the game. "Hands down, he's the best player in the American League," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He plays a premium position. He's a legit five-tool guy. At times, like last night, he looks like a 15-year-old playing with 10-year-olds. He's that talented." Hamilton was still basking in the glow of Tuesday's historic performance, and one of the first calls he made on Wednesday was to Johnny Narron, the Brewers' hitting coach and his past mentor with the Rangers. "He just wanted to talk about it, so I listened to him," Narron said. The two remain in regular contact, and Narron was eager to see the highlights of Hamilton's performance after the Brewers beat the Reds at Miller Park on Tuesday night. "Knowing Josh the way I know him, I wanted to see on TV how they pitched him," Narron said. "I saw they threw him in the middle of the zone, in his hot spot. ... Shame on 'em, because he isn't going to miss it." Hamilton said he respected the way Orioles reliever Darren O'Day went right after him in the eighth inning, when he was going for his record-tying fourth home run. O'Day, a former Ranger, got Hamilton to swing and miss at a high fastball and then foul off a breaking ball. O'Day then threw an 0-2 sinker and left it over the middle of the plate. Hamilton crushed it over the center-field wall for the record-tying home run. "He's a competitor ... I give him a lot of credit," Hamilton said. "Other teams might have thrown something off the plate and make me chase it. But he came right after me." Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it's difficult to pitch around Hamilton because of the rest of the Rangers' lineup. "The situation dictates it," Showalter said. "They've got good people behind him, really good people all the way through their order. Obviously, he's a premier hitter, but so are about seven or eight of the other guys. It's a good club. "He's a good player, a really good player. He does a lot of things. He's one of the best players in the game. You can see why." The question people want to know is, will he continue to be one of the best players in the game while wearing a Rangers uniform beyond this season? Said manager Ron Washington, "If it keeps Hamilton here, he can have my salary."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.