If you once booed Josh Hamilton, do the same for Nelson Cruz

Posted Monday, Jun. 02, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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engel The person you should be jeering is not Nelson Cruz but his flock of advisers.

Without access to those people, the best you can do is go at the man himself.

If you are one of those who chose to disparage his former teammate, Josh Hamilton, then Nellie has to be greeted with the same welcome. Maybe worse.

Mr. Cruz and the Baltimore Orioles visit the Rangers on Tuesday at the ballpark, where he played for eight seasons and contributed to so many teams that meant so much to this “baseball town.”

As all former Rangers who go to Baltimore do, Nellie is killing it. He is batting .314 with a major league-leading 20 home runs and 52 RBIs. And this is long after his favorite South Beach anti-aging clinic closed shop.

Assuming he plays — he was hit in the hand by a pitch on Sunday but X-rays were negative — then those of you who booed Josh on his return as an Angel must do the same for Nellie when he walks to the plate as an Oriole.

Despite being such a crucial piece to the Rangers’ rebuilding and World Series teams, his strikes are at least in the same vicinity as Hamilton’s.

First of all, Cruz may never live down misplaying that screamer in right field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. Just writing/reading that sentence is painful. If he catches that ball, he could steal your puppy and get a pass forever in this baseball town.

Last year, Cruz was part of the Biogenesis Bunch that was busted for using really powerful anti-aging drugs that just may have helped them hit baseballs very far.

Cruz, who was in the final year of his contract, elected to play last season in hopes of avoiding a 50-game suspension — or delaying it. When it became apparent he was going to have to sit, rather than just going ahead and getting it out of the way, he waited until the last possible moment — Aug. 5 — to accept the suspension. By doing so, he killed a team’s offense that needed his bat.

At a time when his team needed him the most, he chose to sit rather to fight.

Had he appealed the suspension, he could have played during the due process. Because he didn’t want to hurt his chances as a free agent, and potentially miss the first 50 games of the 2014 season, he chose to sit immediately.

Chances are about 5,000 percent he was receiving a lot of advice from his personal advisers, his agent and the players union to do what was best for Nelson Cruz’s contract.

As for the Rangers not re-signing him when they still needed his bat? They offered Cruz a one-year, $14.1 million deal. He passed. After the market dried up, he signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles. Feel free to blame Rangers GM Jon Daniels, but mostly this falls on Cruz. What idiot takes $6 million less?

Cruz helped and ultimately killed his team last year. He is such a nice, affable guy — well-liked by his teammates and fans — that he is going to get a boo-bird pass despite actions that merit the Hamilton treatment.

You remember that? In Hamilton’s first game at Texas as an Angel he was treated like A-Rod.

Hamilton, who produced even greater moments for the Rangers in his five years here, was a drama-mama, but he never lied about his intentions. He was always chasing the biggest check; there was no pretense of loyalty beyond the end of the contract. It also helped he had the Religious Right in this baseball town eating of out his hand.

Despite his sometimes petulant behavior here, Hamilton’s biggest transgression was to tell Gina Miller, formerly of CBS 11, that this wasn’t a baseball town. He may as well have called your kids fat, stupid and ugly.

Compare Cruz to Hamilton, and what Cruz did merits a far bigger boo.

The other option to this boo-or-not-to-boo conundrum, and it would seem very few of you chose this, is to forget their dalliances with stupid and applaud them for what they did for the Rangers while they were here.

Like Hamilton, Cruz had his share. It’s impossible to not remember his performance in the 2011 American League Championship Series against the Tigers; the walk-off grand slam in Game 2; throwing out Miguel Cabrera at the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning from right field to keep the game tied in Game 4; hitting a three-run home run in the 11th inning of that same game.

When he comes to the plate Tuesday, chances are good you are going to remember that Cruz smile, those good moments and celebrate that he never insulted your home by saying it isn’t a baseball town.

But if you were one of the ones who jeered Hamilton, do the same for Cruz. After all, it’s not too hard to see that what Cruz did was worse.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com//sports.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @macengelprof

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