We’re all familiar with the scene after baseball teams clinch postseason spots. Champagne everywhere. Beer poured over heads that are guarded only by goggles. Cigars lit and puffed frequently. Laughter. Cheering.
It’s all very cool and all very innocent, but not to an addict.
So Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who spent his first couple years as a professional baseball player fighting battles with drugs and alcohol, sat on the sidelines as his club celebrated its first playoff berth since 1999 on Saturday in Oakland.
According to the Associated Press, Hamilton changed quickly into street clothes after the win and slipped into a training room as his teammates enjoyed the alcoholic beverage scene.
“It’s exciting,” Hamilton said about clinching the division. “It’s a
proud day in Texas. It was great to be on the field and with the guys
you’ve been in the trenches with.”
But he wasn’t going to put himself in a compromising situation. He wasn’t going to tempt himself with beer and champagne, as exciting as winning the AL West might have been.
Hamilton has been out of the Rangers’ starting lineup since September 4 because of two small fractures in his rib cage. He is making progress, though, and hoping to return for the final three games of the regular season. The MVP candidate was batting an incredible .361/.414/.635 with 31 homers and 97 RBI before going down.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: