Mac Engel

Reacquiring Josh Hamilton is a risk not worth taking

Josh, welcome back to Arlington, aka Baseball Town USA.

Josh, welcome back to the Texas Rangers, aka Team Denial.

This is a baseball town and a baseball team so needing production it’s welcoming you back complete with open arms, your personal “support team” and the hopes and prayers of management that you can be the guy who led this team to consecutive World Series appearances.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels already hit the Josh deal once, but Josh 2.0 looks desperate. Desperate, and covered in red flags.

As much as I want this deal to work for the player, the person and this team, there are simply too many warnings that come with reacquiring Josh Hamilton to sign off on it. In 2008, Josh Hamilton was worth the risk and the potential hassle. In 2015, he’s not. He is a 34-year-old guy with a history of injuries, a daily struggle with addiction and a perpetual cycle of need and drama.

Even if this deal “is a steal,” the Rangers would be wiser to invest their energies in finding and developing the next Josh rather than seeing if they can pull one over on the rest of the league. It doesn’t mean he can’t play, but it does mean the Rangers are better served not to stand in the way of progress.

They were better served to remember the good times they had with Josh, which were so many, and to simply keep moving on ...if what they are doing right now qualifies as such.

Instead, this franchise remains in denial about the way it became one of the best teams in baseball. When Hamilton was here the first time, he was part of an organically built collection of young kids on their way up. It was deer, antlers, Josh, Nolan and Wash and it was fun.

The clubhouse Hamilton will rejoin bears little resemblance to the one he left. Most notably gone is a manager, Ron Washington, who knew a thing or two about struggling through life.

By any measure, the Rangers stole Hamilton from the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers are sending a player to be named later for the former American League MVP. This is how much the Angels do not like Josh Hamilton, and it is one of many red flags attached to this move: The Angels are picking up the majority of the $83 million left on Hamilton’s original five-year, $125 million deal. And the Angels sent him for nothing to a division rival.

On Monday at The Ballpark, Hamilton fielded questions from the media and sounded like he did the day he left. He was candid, glib, sometimes contrite, sometimes arrogant and irritated. However shy this man was when he broke into the big leagues, he has become a pro at playing the media. He is empowered by a level of honesty and candor that emboldens him.

He quasi-apologized for his infamous “It’s not a baseball town” comment he made two years ago to Gina Miller, which needs no apology because he is right. We are a football town first, second and third.

The oddest part of the news conference is that Hamilton never referenced the Bible, God or Jesus once. This is a man who in his first tenure with the club was open about his Christianity, and seldom neglected to mention that in interviews. On Monday, no mention. Not once. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but it was odd.

He used the word “risk” on Monday to acknowledge his signing with the Angels two years ago.

He is still a risk, even at a reduced price. I asked him why he is worth it.

“It’s like any other employer that hires somebody. They’ve got baggage. They’ve got risk. You’ve got a story behind your face,” he pointed at me.

I do. We all do. But it ain’t his. And he is kidding himself if he thinks his baggage is like everybody else’s. There is a certain level of noise and drama that comes with being Josh Hamilton, and everyone around him must deal with it.

“The risk is there because the numbers have been there,” he said. “You ask guys in the organization what kind of guy I am and what I will do for them. The kind of teammate I am. Those things combined make the risk worth it.”

As long as the numbers are there, he is worth reassuring, ego-stroking, providing a support team and the extra attention that comes with having this type of personality in your clubhouse.

The Angels wanted no part of it because the productivity was not there. They felt he would stand in the way of them winning.

Guys like Josh are worth it when they are hitting home runs, driving in runs and your favorite team is winning. Guys like Josh are a nightmare when they are striking out, on the disabled list and your favorite team is losing.

A club exec told me Hamilton is better than what he was with the Angels, and that he is better than anything the Rangers have right now, which is a stinging indictment of this roster.

Hopefully, Josh gets his life back on track, and this is a win-win move for the club and the player. That is the ideal world.

But there are too many issues on this reacquisition to wholly believe this reunion will look anything like Josh 1.0. This sequel looks desperate, and covered in red flags.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog