BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 07: Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers hits a home run in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on May 7, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. Texas won the game 14-3. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Let's not beat around the bush.
Josh Hamilton is an incredibly talented, even once-a-generation talented, but troubled and physically fragile player. When he's healthy and on his game, there isn't a better player in baseball. That much has been established.
With that being said, let's also be honest in this respect: Josh Hamilton is making it awfully hard for Rangers fans who had come to grips with him leaving after this season to think about him being in a different uniform next season.
It's hard to say what the Rangers should do in this case. They have a transcendent talent who, addiction aside, has shown a history of injury problems but has also shown a tendency to win MVP awards, as he did in 2010 when he hit .359 with 32 home runs and 100 RBIs and led the league with a .633 slugging percentage.
Many folks were of the understanding that the Rangers would be better off letting Hamilton walk after the season unless he would stay for a bargain price, which he pretty much said he wouldn't do.
Then came this season's start, and more specifically, then came Tuesday night.
Hamilton's historic 4-home run, 8-RBI night put the slugger at 14 home runs this season with 36 RBIs and raised his average to .406 and his slugging percentage to .840, meaning if the season ended today, Josh Hamilton would win the Triple Crown. He's clearly on a mission this season, a mission to prove that he is worth the big money that guys like Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols got this past off-season in free agency.
That's where things get tricky. By many accounts, the Rangers and Hamilton's people are back to discussing an extension, albeit privately. Quite frankly, the Rangers would be foolish to give Hamilton a deal akin to Pujols or Fielder, even though his on-field performance suggests otherwise. Hamilton is about to turn 31 years old and has played 130 games only twice in his career.
Here's a suggestion: Offer Hamilton a nice five-year deal worth $100 million and throw in a sixth-year club option for another $20 or $30 million. That's not Pujols/Fielder money, but it's pretty darn close. And when you think about it, the Rangers' front office aren't the Tigers' or the Angels', and that's a good thing.