Josh Hamilton heads back where he belongs

58 Comments

With the Angels so terribly eager to dump him, Friday’s trade couldn’t have possibly worked out much better for Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton, ostracized by Angels management after his drug relapse, will return to a setting that suits him far better, even if his time in Arlington didn’t end on a high note. While there is lingering bitterness from part of the fan base, some of it deserved after negative comments that Hamilton made, there’s nothing so bad it can’t be put into the past. Obviously, Hamilton is embracing it, since he’s giving up money to make the trade happen. Hamilton was, after all, a bonafide superstar in Texas, winning MVP honors in 2010 and going to All-Star Games in each of his five seasons with the club. He hit 43 homers and drove in 128 runs in his final season there in 2012.

Just getting back into a ballpark that favors left-handed power hitters should do wonders for Hamilton. His decline in Anaheim wasn’t all about the tough hitting environment there, but it did exacerbate his problems. In 2014, all 10 of Hamilton’s homers came in road games. He hit .249/.314/.302 at home and .278/.347/.527 on the road. Basically, he was still a star while playing outside of Southern California.

It’s too much to ask Hamilton to match those road numbers after he returns from shoulder surgery this year, especially with everything else he’s dealing with off the field, including a divorce, but this is the best-case scenario for him from an on-field standpoint. And it’s a nice gamble for the Rangers, since they’ll be paying a fraction of the $25 million per year he’s owed through 2017. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan says they’ll be on the hook for a mere $15 million total.

The Rangers will have to wait for Hamilton to finish rehabbing his shoulder, but once healthy, he’ll fill their massive void in left field. They opened the spring with Ryan Rua, Jake Smolinski, Michael Choice, Carlos Peguero and veterans Ryan Ludwick and Nate Schierholtz competing for the job, eventually settling on Rua and Smolinski. Rua, though, is going to miss at least a month with an ankle injury, and he wasn’t likely to settle in as a quality regular anyway.

 

 

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

Getty Images
13 Comments

Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.