Josh Hamilton’s career could finally be near an end after the Rangers released him Friday from his minor league contract.
Hamilton underwent surgery on his left knee in February and had been working out in Houston ever since. Last week he injured his right knee and will need another surgery. He had been on the disabled list for Triple A Round Rock since the end of spring training.
“I am disappointed but not discouraged that my knee problems have not allowed me to play this season,” Hamilton said in a written statement. “I plan to have surgery on my right knee and then evaluate the situation. I want to thank the Rangers and all of the great fans for the support and encouragement. I really appreciate it.”
Hamilton’s rise to fame began after he joined the Rangers in 2008. He was the No. 1 draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays in 1999 and injured his back in a car wreck in 2001. He succumbed to substance abuse and was suspended for three seasons (2003-05) after failing the league’s substance abuse policy.
After cleaning up, he returned in 2006 and broke into the majors with the Reds in 2007. He was traded to the Rangers before the 2008 season and led the majors with 130 RBIs. He was an All-Star for five consecutive seasons and was the American League MVP in 2010, the year he helped lead the Rangers to their first World Series.
“Some of the greatest moments in Rangers history to this point involve No. 32,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “He’s may be one of the most remarkable, baseball and personal interest stories I’ve been witness to.”
Michael Young said Hamilton was “the piece that got us over the top.”
Hamilton signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels before 2013. He returned to the Rangers in April 2015 after a substance abuse relapse earlier that year. The Angels received cash in the trade but still owned the bulk of Hamilton’s hefty contract.
“I’m going to think of him as an unbelievably gifted, talented player that achieved his potential on the field with us,” Daniels said.
Mike Napoli, who played with Hamilton in 2011 and ’12 said he was special to watch.
“Something that you don’t really see from a player, to be able to do the type of things he was able to do on the field,” Napoli said. “Seemed like he hit a homer every at-bat he was up or he did something pretty spectacular. I’ll never forget those times where he put up the impressive numbers and helped us win as a team. I’ll never forget that.”
Rangers manager Jeff Banister said when Hamilton was in his prime he could take over a game.
“He could do everything. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on the baseball field,” he said. “He was one of the best players in the game. He could hit for a power, hit for average, play tremendous defense, run the bases. There were times with us, my time with him, that he definitely wanted to be a better player, more consistent than he was. It was challenging for him because the injuries kept him off the field consistently.”