Texas Rangers centerfield Josh Hamilton wins American League MVP award
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 11:16 PM
On Tuesday afternoon, Josh Hamilton added another title to his singular, belief-defying career. Hamilton, 29, has been a can't-miss first-round pick, a baseball bust, a drug fiend, a Hollywood comeback story, a playoff hero. Now add one more: 2010 American League MVP.
Hamilton, the Texas Rangers' center fielder and ALCS MVP, finished first over Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera and New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. The vote wasn't close, with Hamilton receiving 22 of 28 first-place votes and Cabrera receiving five. Cano, somewhat surprisingly, did not receive any. Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, who led the majors with 54 home runs, finished fourth and received the other first-place vote.
Hamilton won the award despite a late-season injury that limited him to 133 games this season. He led the majors with a .359 batting average and a .633 slugging percentage to go with 32 home runs and 100 RBI, lifting the Rangers to a postseason trip that turned into the franchise's first World Series appearance.
Hamilton was the first overall pick of the 1999 draft, one of the most heralded prospects in baseball history. First injuries, and then a crippling drug addiction, bottomed out his life. He didn't play baseball at all from 2003 through 2005. He first made the majors, after a remarkable recovery, in 2007 and quickly blossomed into the player so many thought he would be.
"I think I lose sight of things," Hamilton said on a conference call. "I think if I didn't reflect, a little ego might start sneaking in there, and that's one thing I don't want to happen. So I do reflect and I think about where I was at my lowest time, and how God has brought me through that and sustained me. It's just awesome to think about where I am at this moment and where I was."
All along, Hamilton has continued to fight his demons, knowing that one slip could lead back toward his abyss. This offseason, photographs of Hamilton partying, with alcohol, surfaced on Deadspin.com. He vowed it was his first misstep in years, and that it would not happen again.
After the Rangers won postseason series, his teammates drenched Hamilton in ginger ale. Hamilton remained outside the clubhouse while the Rangers retreated to the clubhouse and doused one another in champagne and Budweiser. After the Rangers clinched the ALCS, Hamilton held court for a handful of reporters in the tunnel at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. During one answer, he paused.
"Oh, no," he said. "I smell champagne." He shook his head and returned to the question.
With his play, Hamilton has separated himself from his past. He can now be defined simply as a ballplayer, one of the best on the planet. He runs the bases, plays an outstanding center field and crushes the ball like few other sluggers, but with fewer strikeouts - he had 95 in 571 plate appearances.
"It's awesome," Hamilton said. "But at the same time, if I could give up the MVP to go into the playoffs and win in the playoffs, I would definitely do that. To do both, I just thank God for that."