Josh Hamilton, the Texas Rangers’ reigning American League MVP, is expected to be out until June after breaking a bone near his shoulder on a home-plate slide and, well, someone must be to blame, right?
Hamilton, for not having faster wheels and better sliding technique? (Ask any of the other three players who’ve been hurt on head-first slides in the last week about that.)
The third-base coach who sent him on a dash to the plate?
The baseball gods who cursed Hamilton with fragility?
“It was just a stupid play,” Hamilton said. “I listened to my third-base coach. That’s a little too aggressive. The whole time I was watching the play I was listening. [He said], ‘Nobody’s at home, nobody’s at home.’ I was like, ‘Dude, I don’t want to do this. Something’s going to happen.’ ”
Third-base coach Dave Anderson isn’t easily slipping under that particular bus. “I always want him to slide feet first no matter what he does.You play this game long enough and I’ve gone through it, too, sliding headfirst and have had some injuries. Sometimes you can’t help it. Your instinct just tells you to dive and try to get there. But most of the time you try to go feet first if you can to try to stay away from injuries.”
No matter who’s to blame, it will take time for Hamilton to return to form even after he recovers. And that’s a significant issue for the Rangers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News says.
When on the field, he is as close to athletic perfection as you will find. The problem, of course, is keeping him on the field.
There are too many "freak things." If Hamilton comes back in mid-June and plays every inning of every game the rest of the way, he still will end up missing the equivalent of one-third of the season. He’s already missed half of one season (2009) and a month of another (2010) in his first three years with the Rangers. You can’t miss that much time and be a franchise-type player.
When he comes back, he’s going to be faced once again with this dilemma: Keep playing with fearless recklessness and take whatever other injuries are sure to come his way or tone things down and perhaps lose some of the edge that separates him in an effort to stay on the field more.
It’s a tough decision.
But you know what might be tougher: Asking a franchise to commit well over $100 million to a player who possesses Hamilton’s extraordinary skills but comes with his exceptional risk.
It’s the unknown kid’s sweet voice in this video ... that is most damning to Hamilton. During a rain delay in Baltimore, fans urged Hamilton to go sliding across the drenched tarp. He smiled, considered it, grinned again and took off running. Hamilton dove headfirst – the same sort of dive on which he suffered his injury. As Hamilton stood up, [a] child said: “Cal Ripken nearly broke his arm doing that.”