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So Much For Protecting Hamilton From Himself



    There probably aren't many people laughing around the Rangers clubhouse on Wednesday morning.

    Anyone who is likely has a taste for dark humor. After an offseason filled with concerns about letting Josh Hamilton play center field to protect him from injury, a decision by third base coach Dave Anderson has left the team without their best player for about two months.

    For those who somehow missed the news, Hamilton's broken arm came about when Anderson decided to have him tag up and try to score on a pop foul to the third baseman because no one on the Tigers was covering the plate. Hamilton couldn't beat the throw, slid head first and snapped the bone while making the third out of the inning.

    It wasn't Anderson's finest hour.

    This isn't all about the outcome. Obviously Hamilton's injury is a punch to the gut and it colors any reading of the decisions that led to him flinging himself to the plate in the first inning. But it would have been just as dubious a decision if Hamilton was merely out at the plate or even if he had scored.

    On Tuesday, we discussed Ron Washington's decision to walk Miguel Cabrera and bring the winning run to the plate. It worked out but it was still hard to defend the risk he took in that situation.

    The same goes for Anderson's decision. It's a bad percentage play. Even if you did catch the Tigers sleeping for a half a second, their players were still closer to the plate than Hamilton was and the ball is going to travel the distance faster than the player. They say forcing the defense to make a great play is in your favor, but the Tigers simply had to make a play.

    On top of that, it was the first inning of a game. Nelson Cruz was on deck and the need to play for one run simply didn't exist at that point in the contest.

    And, again, you're sending your team's best player into the fire and it is a player whose health worries you so much that you moved him out of center out of concern for keeping him healthy. That might have been a misguided notion, but it was the operating principle of your team.

    It's easy to argue that Anderson isn't doing all those computations and is just focused on the chance to steal a run. Seems fair enough, but his job entails taking all of these things into account when making a decision to send a runner to the plate.

    That said, Hamilton comes out of the whole thing looking worse than Anderson. His comments after the game were the textbook definition of throwing someone under the bus.

    "It was a stupid play," Hamilton said. "The whole time the ball was in the air, the coach was yelling, 'Go, there's no one at home,' and I was thinking, 'I don't want to do this, something is going to happen.' But I listened to my coach. It was way too aggressive. Maybe if they had both been closer to me, but they had a perfect angle to cut me off, and the only way to avoid a tag in that situation is to go head first."

    Then you shouldn't have gone to the plate. Yes, you're supposed to listen to your coaches but, to quote everyone's parents, would you jump off a cliff just because someone said you should? 

    Hamilton is a big boy. If he went back to the dugout and told Anderson and Washington that he felt he had no chance to be safe or felt it was too great a risk, they weren't going to bench him or ream him out. There's also a more than sneaking suspicion that Hamilton would have been singing a very different tune if he'd been safe. A tune that made him look like a sneaky genius and gave Anderson very little credit.

    It was a bad move all around and the outcome is a bad one for the Rangers. Not a season ender and it might not even wind up being more than a minor bump in the road. Still, it didn't have to happen and that makes it sting all the worse.