Josh Hamilton has been slumping for so long that the torrid start to the season is starting to feel like it happened sometime during one of Grover Cleveland's non-consecutive terms as President of the United States.
He was 1-for-3 with two RBIs in Monday's 9-1 win over the Red Sox, but that merely lifted his numbers for the month of July to a still unsightly .172 batting average, 587 OPS and seven RBIs. June was only slightly better and Hamilton has looked increasingly lost during his trips to the plate.
That hasn't escaped the notice of Rangers president Nolan Ryan. In an interview with KESN, via the Dallas Morning News, Ryan was asked about Hamilton's struggles and he didn't pull any punches in the analysis department.
"I think we’re all seeing the same thing. You’re right that some of his at bats aren’t very impressive from the standpoint that he doesn’t work deep into the count, he’s swinging at a lot of bad pitches, he just doesn’t seem to be locked in at all," Ryan said. "So what you’re hoping is that his approach will change and he’ll start giving quality at bats because there’s a lot of those at bats that he just gives away. One of the things I’ve always commented on is I can’t ever say that I ever saw Henry Aaron give an at bat away."
There's a lot of criticism there and none of it is constructive unless you consider "Do Better" to be a helpful hint for mastering a difficult task. Ryan was a pitcher, of course, so there's probably not a lot that he could offer when it comes to a successful hitting mindset. Other than stating the obvious, then, could there be another reason for Ryan being so explicit about Hamilton's problems?
Hamilton's impending free agency seems like a pretty good place to start. The hardest thing about making a decision not to sign Hamilton isn't going to be coming up with a good reason for moving in a different direction. It is going to be about selling the decision to a fan base that has embraced Hamilton since he came to town.
Evoking a name like Hank Aaron is a pretty clear sign that Ryan's interested to knocking Hamilton down a peg or two on the unwritten, inexact list of baseball stardom. If he can't do what Aaron was able to do, then why should the Rangers pay him a salary similar to the one Aaron would command in today's atmosphere?
That's salesmanship and it's probably just the first round of it that we'll see on both sides as the Rangers figure out their plans for the future.