“Josh Hamilton is the best baseball player to walk the planet.” --Ian Kinsler
SI.com’s Jon Heyman reported yesterday that Josh Hamilton and the Rangers have just begun negotiations on what should be a pretty big, long-term contract.
Under his current deal, Hamilton will make as much as $600,000 with the Rangers in 2009; this is a large number for just about anyone in this shambles of an economy, but for a baseball player of Hamilton’s caliber, it falls somewhere between chicken feed and peanuts.
Hamilton was looking most valuable throughout the first half of the season, before slowing down palpably in August and finishing the year with a paltry .304 average, with 32 home runs.
But what makes this deal most appealing for the Rangers is the ceiling of potential for Hamilton; namely, there doesn’t seem to be one, at this point. Barring injury, or a need to save the planet Earth from the threat of Lex Luthor, the 27 year-old is going to keep getting better.
For starters, there were those six weeks in Arizona. Hamilton spent six weeks at the renowned Athletes Performance Institute prior to Spring Training in order to improve on the strength and durability that seemed to wane late last season. Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Jason Witten and Mario Williams are just a few of the hulking freaks who have also trained at API.
Add Josh Hamilton to that list, and, if you are an American League pitcher, cringe in fear.
But he just doesn’t stop. Hamilton has been making adjustments at the plate this spring, reminiscent of Cal Ripken, Jr. He has been working to make his swing more compact, geared more directly towards getting his hands through the zone as quickly as possible-- Kind of scary, when you consider that Hamilton already has, arguably, the fastest hands in baseball.
This is the kind of drive that it takes to get to the top, and stay there, in Major League Baseball. Beyond being good, Hamilton’s story seems to transcend the game itself. He is the reincarnation of Roy Hobbs, an astonishingly talented baseball player, only with a better story; and everyone seems to know it except for Hamilton himself.
This is the kind of ballplayer you want to build a franchise around.
This is the kind of ballplayer we want to be around for a while.