Josh Hamilton is back with the Texas Rangers, which brings to mind when he left the team after the 2012 season as a free agent. In his time with the Los Angeles Angels, Hamilton suffered a recent relapse in his long-fight against addiction, which he self-reported to Major League Baseball.
On Oct. 9, 2012, I posted this column based on an extensive interview with comedian Artie Lange, who like Josh fights addiction:
Artie Lange, who for years established a cult following on The Howard Stern Show, is what some may call a “large” man. On the surface this standup comic has as much in common with Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton as a basset hound.
The common thread that joins these two professional “entertainers” is they are recovering drug addicts.
“Yeah, that is the understatement of the year. My entire life pretty much,” Lange recently told me. “Starting with booze and it went to pills...I got involved with heroin. It almost killed me. It slowly just destroyed my life.”
I asked him if he missed heroin.
“I would be lying if I said I didn't,” he said.
As a public figure who is as out there with his addiction problems as Hamilton has been, Lange empathizes. While you are probably sick of Hamilton's act and want him to go away after he became the face of the Rangers' historic collapse, try to remind yourself this guy is one of the biggest reasons this team had such a good run and that what he deals with is not just sports bar chatter.
“I do respect a guy like Josh Hamilton. He's not a perfect person,” said Lange, who co-hosts the syndicated The Nick & Artie Show with fellow comedian Nick DiPaolo. “I like Derek Jeter, but my god is he boring. Or A-Rod is just a [blank]. A guy like Josh I root for in life.”
This potentially is the perfect time for a recovering drug addict to want to give it a shot again. The season is over. Things may not look too great. Time to feel good.
“It makes everything in the world fine for about six hours. The other 18 hours of the day are a living hell,” Lange said. “You need to get it, and to get it you have to find the money to get it. You need to make sure you hide it, find a place to do it and all of that. But for those six hours you are on it...it doesn't make you forget your troubles it makes you not give a [blank].”
Of all the exits of any pro jock in this town, none is more bizarre than Josh Hamilton.
Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens and perhaps Stars winger Brett Hull come the closest. People wanted them to just leave despite their statistics and achievements.
Even those analogies fall short.
This town loved Hamilton after he arrived from Cincinnati in 2008 because he was so public about his struggle and his faith. It was a wonderful story arc. And he was really, really good. And he was ours.
When was the last time a team and a town wanted a guy who is 31 and a five-time All-Star, an AL MVP, an ALCS MVP, a league batting champion and who hit 43 home runs with 128 RBIs this season to just go away for nothing but draft picks in return?
Perhaps in the raw emotion of this collapse, we need a face to blame. It is easy to listen to Josh's slow drawl and point to it as a sign of apathy and a desire to just be done with it all.
Maybe he is.
The dropped fly ball in Game 162 in Oakland is the perfect portrait of this collapse, and Josh.
It's his fault!
It's not, of course, but he had a hand in it. So, too, did the pitching staff, the Oakland A's, et al.
But the overwhelming reaction has been to just let Josh and all of his problems walk.
Fans are tired of the drama, admitting he is going for the highest dollar, the Red Bull and everything else.
A high-ranking Rangers official told Randy Galloway that Josh is not coming back even if he wants to. These things are fluid and, I suspect, if the numbers are right for the Rangers, they may change their minds.
What is certain is that Josh will be playing somewhere next season, and for a lot of money.
“If you are talking to me, I would give him a shot. I would be a total hypocrite if I said any different,” Lange said. “I've got four second chances in show business. This is the biggest struggle of my life. Now could I blame a big corporation for not doing it? The cop-out answer is no. It's a big investment. This is about money, and I couldn't blame them because [baseball teams] are big corporations. I couldn't blame any big corporation if they didn't want to spend a lot of money on guys like us.”
The Rangers are a big corporation, and this is about money.
What is not about money is that Josh Hamilton did a lot of wonderful things here, propelled the Rangers to places they had never been, inspired a lot of you and his struggle will continue regardless of the logo on his uniform.
Either way, I hope it works out.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760