MLB Insider: Josh Hamilton a disappointment, but not all that’s wrong with Angels

Posted Saturday, Aug. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Top five Red Sox: David Ortiz scores opening act for Gallagher comedy tour. Rays: Lost young lefty Matt Moore, but have young righty Chris Archer. Pirates: OK, it’s officially time to take Pittsburgh seriously. Seriously. Cardinals: Should rebound from dip to second place in tough NL Central. Braves: Class of the NL East can start buying champagne for September. Bottom five Astros: Series at Minnesota should be really good … in four years. White Sox: Good thing Chicago held onto Alex Rios at the trade deadline. Marlins: Seek trade for Angels closer Ernesto Frieri in hopes of catching Houston. Twins: Highlight of 2013 season was unveiling 2014 All-Star logo last week. Brewers: Team closes Bernie Brewer’s slide due to of an abundant lack of use.

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When the 2013 season comes to a close and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim find themselves in third or fourth place in the American League West, the blame game will likely take an extended turn with Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton’s season continues to circle the porcelain throne, with his average solidly under .230 and his power numbers flickering from the heights he reached last season while playing for a big contract.

Oh, he got the contract, and the hard-to-watch shampoo commercial, not to mention the target on the back of his uniform in the off-chance that the Angels, preseason darlings, were to fall short of expectations.

After watching the Angels throughout the season, and especially last week at Rangers Ballpark, they have fallen woefully short.

Hamilton isn’t the only problem, but he rates as a mighty flaw in the Angels’ failed championship plans.

“You’d like to come in and just destroy it so people wouldn’t have anything to talk about,” Hamilton said last week as the Angels were swept in three games by the Rangers.

“The player I like to think I am, the expectations are going to be there, and I want them there. It almost helps hold me accountable for the work I do. But it’s unreasonable to think that expectations are always going to be met.”

In Hamilton’s defense, he has yet to make a relief appearance out of a terrible bullpen that was supposed to have Ryan Madson at closer. The problem is that Madson has yet to throw a pitch on the way back from Tommy John surgery.

So, Ernesto Frieri has been the ninth-inning man. Yikes.

And has there been a worse free-agent signing than Joe Blanton to fill out the rotation? Well, maybe Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $125 million deal in December.

Meanwhile, Hamilton has stayed remarkably healthy, at least physically, which is more than Albert Pujols, Jered Weaver, Erick Aybar, Jason Vargas and Peter Bourjos, among others, can say.

That Hamilton hasn’t dealt with injury yet continues to flail away, entering Saturday with a .221 average and 108 strikeouts in 101 games, is his big personal mystery.

“This is the first time in my career, ever, since I started playing baseball, that I’ve struggled like this,” said Hamilton, who saw his string of five straight All-Star Game appearances snapped this year. “Sometimes you just can’t explain things.”

Manager Mike Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the majors, can’t be faulted for searching for ways to get Hamilton going. Scioscia ordered a few days off earlier in the season so that Hamilton could work on his swing, and has moved him around in the lineup in the hopes that something will click.

Not even chewing tobacco, which Hamilton has returned to using after a long drama last season during which he tried to quit it, has done the trick.

Hamilton looked OK at Rangers Ballpark, driving in four runs Tuesday and delivering the Angels’ lone run Wednesday with a long home run off Martin Perez. But he hasn’t been able to sustain the good times this season for an extended period.

“There’s been bits and pieces where I feel great for one day or two or three days, and then it’s gone,” Hamilton said. “So — you know me, I look at things a little bit differently than other people — there’s a reason for that. When you go through that struggle, perseverance comes up and it’s about not giving up and not giving in.”

Through it all, Hamilton insists that he has no regrets about taking the Angels’ money and departing his comfort zone in Arlington. He continues to work under the theory that being put in new places brings new challenges, and he has definitely gotten what he asked for during Year One at the Big A.

The goal for Hamilton the rest of the way is to drive in some more runs and win as many games as possible.

“There comes points in the season where you’ve got to let things go,” Hamilton said. “The average is not going to be there at the end of the year, but the opportunity for RBIs and to help the team win are still there.

“We still feel like we’re where we’re supposed to be. God takes us out of our comfort zone sometimes so we can grow.”

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson

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