Josh Hamilton and Rangers agree to two-year, $24 million deal

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Josh Hamilton and the Rangers won’t have to worry about arbitration again, as the two sides have agreed to a two-year contract. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the deal is worth $24 million.

Hamilton was seeking $12 million for this season, while the Rangers countered at $8.7 million. That makes the midpoint $10.35 million and he likely would have been in line for an even bigger figure next season, so the contract is a fair one for both sides that gives the Rangers some cost certainty in case he has another MVP campaign.

And perhaps just as importantly, it also allows the Rangers to avoid bringing up his history of substance abuse in a hearing, which potentially could have gotten very ugly.

If they hadn’t reached an agreement there was a hearing scheduled for Monday, but various reports during the past couple weeks have consistently said negotiations were going smoothly. Hamilton, who hit .359 with 32 homers, 100 RBIs, and a league-leading 1.044 OPS in 133 games last season, will be 32 years old when he’s eligible for free agency following the 2012 season.

Jim Crane thought the heat over sign-stealing would blow over by spring training

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The Astros’ sign-stealing story broke in November, a steady drumbeat of coverage of it lasted through December and into January, when Rob Manfred’s report came out about it. The report was damning and, in its wake, Houston’s manager and general manger were both suspended and then fired.

After that a steady stream of media reports came out which not only made the whole affair seem even worse than Manfred’s report suggested, but which also suggested that, on some level, Major League Baseball had bungled it all and it was even worse than it had first seemed.

Rather than Manfred and the Astros putting this all behind them, the story grew. As it grew, both the Red Sox and Mets fired their managers and, in a few isolated media appearances, Astros’ players seemed ill-prepared for questions on it all. Once spring training began the Astros made even worse public appearances and, for the past week and change, each day has given us a new player or three angrily speaking out about how mad they are at the Astros and how poorly they’ve handled all of this.

Why have they handled it so poorly? As always, look to poor leadership:

Guess not.

In other news, Crane was — and I am not making this up — recently named the Houston Sports Executive of the Year. An award he has totally, totally earned, right?