The cry from local media and Rangers fans for years has been that the Texas Rangers should play Josh Hamilton in center field at every chance they get. After all, the guy who's referred to as "The Natural" is arguably one of the most talented, toolsy centerfielders in all of baseball, not to mention being a great hitter. So why not play him where he's most effective, and where he wants to play?
Well, Hamilton has proven to have a fragile body since he's been here in Texas. Aside from his breakout 2008 season when he played 156 games, the most games Hamilton has played in a season was 133 in his 2010 MVP season. He has two seasons of his five in the bigs in which he played less than 100 games. So the Rangers have long lived by the doctrine that it's best to not play Hamilton every day in center field because it's more taxing physically, which might be true, but coming into this season the Rangers don't care anymore.
Could it have anything to do with the fact that Hamilton is a free agent after this season and the public alcohol relapse Hamilton 'fessed up to this off-season might have turned the Rangers off to the idea of re-signing him?
“I don’t know,” Hamilton told the media on Tuesday, “you think it’s got anything to do with free agency and get as much out of me as they can before they get rid of me?”
After saying that with a wide smile, Hamilton profusely said he was kidding, over and over again. But maybe there is some truth to the statement.
Maybe the Rangers are growing tired of the constant babysitting. Maybe Hamilton's public comments about his pending free agency and "not owing the Rangers anything" have Jon Daniels & Co. wondering.
Don't worry, Rangers fans. Daniels is far too successful to let a public spat get in the way of what's best for the team. Look no further than last spring's Michael Young situation for evidence of that. But if Hamilton can't stay healthy this year, the Rangers might not be willing to fork over tons of money to keep Hamilton on.
So yeah, maybe the Rangers are just riding with Hamilton in center because they know that's their best team. And maybe they just aren't concerned with his long-term physical health anymore.