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Reaction Bonehead Sportswriter of the Week
by Asher B. Chancey, BaseballEvolution.com
May 8, 2009
In trying console the baseball world after the Manny suspension, Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated offered 15 stories to still feel good about. Among them was the following nugget:
“11. Josh Hamilton, Rangers star. If he can only get healthy, we can all enjoy the greatest talent in the game. How he kept all his talent after four years away being a drug addict nobody will probably ever know. His home-run display at the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium was truly remarkable. Just being alive and a contributing member of society was something unforeseen at his lowest moments.”
Wow. Just wow. Let’s make our own list of 5 things Jon Heyman got wrong in calling Josh Hamilton “the greatest talent in the game.”
5. Taking his statistics on their face and assuming good defense, he was not close to the best, sorry, most talented player in baseball last season. His 32 HR, 130 RBI, 9 stolen bases, .304 batting average and .901 OPS were all very good, but don’t even come close to comprising the best overall talent in baseball – Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, Albert Pujols are three better, sorry, more talented players off the top of my head. Oh, and David Wright.
4. You can’t assume he is a great defender, because he is not. Despite assertions from the “I-only-judge-what-I-see-with-my-eyes” crowd, and the “Josh Hamilton is God” crowd, we have plenty of adequate statistics which measure defense and they don’t see Hamilton as even a league average defender. John Dewan’s system, which is based on statisticians watching every play, rates Hamilton quite poorly.
3. You can’t take his stats at face value, either. Think Hamilton is a great hitter? He is a Texas Rangers outfielder – their numbers are always inflated. See Gary Matthews, Kevin Mench, Milton Bradley. But you don’t have to just compare him to other “hit-well-in-Texas-but-poorly-everywhere-else” players – let’s look at his actual stats. He had a 1.019/.779 OPS split last season. 19 of his 32 homeruns came at home. He hit .345 at home and .263 on the road. He wasn’t just less of a player on the road, he was a bad player. Great players don’t suck on the road. The greatest talent in baseball certainly can not stop performing on the road.
2. Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens and Jason Giambi were all heroes before they became goats. When are we going to stop saying “don’t be upset about slugger X now that he has been busted for steroids. Love slugger Y” without expecting them to be busted for steroids as well?
In the case of Hamilton, this is even more ridiculous – Hamilton is an acknowledged drug user. Heyman wonders “how he kept all his talent after four years away being a drug addict.” Hmm, I wonder. Of course, Hamilton says he is clean and has found God. Well, we should certainly believe him. A professional baseball player would never lie about something like that.
I’m not saying he’s lying. I’m just saying, don’t go “all in” on the fact that he’s not.
1. The best player on the Texas Rangers is, and continues to be, Ian Kinsler. He outperformed Hamilton last season, and he has only been better this season.
Questions? Concerns? Comments? Asher lives in Philadelphia, PA, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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