Josh Hamilton’s Once-in-a-Lifetime Streak a Reminder of Interesting Offseason Situation to Come


May 16, 2012

Josh Hamilton's Once-in-a-Lifetime Streak a Reminder of Interesting Offseason Situation to ComeWhat can you say about the way that Josh Hamilton is hitting right now that hasn't already been said?

The Texas Rangers outfielder is playing in his own world right now, hitting everything he sees, as he continues his assault on major league pitching.

Hamilton singled Tuesday night to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, the best in the majors. During that streak, he's posted Ruthean — nay, Hamiltonian — numbers. 

In those 15 games, Hamilton is hitting .418. He has 10 home runs and 26 RBIs, despite being walked 12 times, three of those intentionally. Add it all up, and you've got an otherworldly 1.492 OPS.

If you were to extend that out to a 162-game stretch (which really doesn't mean much, but it is fun), he would hit 108 home runs and drive in 281 runs. Those would, uh, break a couple of records.

Breaking up Hamilton's start into just one 15-game snippet doesn't do it justice, though. 

He's played in 34 games this season. He's been held hitless just three times, and in one of those games, he's walked twice. 

He leads the world in batting average, home runs and RBIs. He is a legitimate Triple Crown threat.

Simply put, Josh Hamilton is the best baseball player in the freaking universe right now.

You can bet your bottom dollar that teams across the league are paying close attention to this, not only because they have to try and figure out how to limit the damage he can do on a day-to-day basis, but there are certainly some teams who are already trying to figure out a way to move money around for this offseason when Hamilton becomes a free agent. The curious case of Josh Hamilton's free agency has already begun.

If Hamilton were just your "simple, run-of-the-mill" best player in the world, he'd be in line for a record-breaking contract. He's obviously at the top of his game right now, and he turns 31 next week, so you have to figure he has something left in his game. To put the age thing into perspective, Albert Pujols turned 32 this winter, and he was given a 10-year, $240 million contract this season.

However, Hamilton's story is much more complex than that of other once-in-a-lifetime talents. His history, one littered with drug and alcohol use are well documented. He's come a long way in just a decade or so, but every so often, we are reminded of the kind of grip that type of thing can have on a man.

Hamilton had a relapse just before spring training began, and while his admirable efforts to remain clean don't go unnoticed, no one is immune to a "moment of weakness," as Hamilton labeled the relapse. It may be a little bit unfair to look at someone's struggles with substance abuse and try to handicap what impact that has on his market value. Yet, when you're dealing in millions and millions (and millions and millions) of dollars, you leave no stone left unturned. And once you've turned those stones over, you turn them over again and repeat the process, just to be sure.

Hamilton's personal issues should no doubt play a role in his offseason, but figuring out how much of a role that should play will be key.

That's part of the reason you have to assume the Rangers are the early favorites to retain the slugger. They know him better than any other team. They're familiar with the type of person Hamilton is and they've seen him go about his job every single day for going on five seasons now. Additionally, the Rangers have established themselves as one of the best teams in baseball, thanks in large part to what Hamilton does in terms of solidifying what's one of the most dynamic lineups in the game.

If Texas somehow sees Hamilton's value at a level way below the rest of the market, then there will still be at least a handful of suitors, despite the slugger's checkered past. 

Hamilton has been arguably the best player in baseball through his first four seasons in Texas, showing why he was the No. 1 pick and a can't-miss prospect before his demons chased him down. Those seem to be behind him — for the most part — and he's now a perennial MVP candidate.

He's taken that to an entirely different level through the first month and a half of this season, showing that at his best, he's a once-a-generation player.

What will that mean for Hamilton, the Rangers and the rest of baseball this winter? That's still up in the air, but two things are pretty apparent. Hamilton is going to be paid handsomely, and his situation will be wildly entertaining throughout the hot stove season.

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