The reaction to Josh Hamilton’s four-homer game last week was revealing. The sounds of congratulations quickly
were washed away by the ka-chinging of cash registers.
The calculus was not about the odds of becoming the 16th man ever to hit four homers in a game, but what this meant financially for a star in his walk year. How many dollars? Over how many seasons? Where? When? There was renewed pressure on the Rangers to sign their best player long term — immediately.
Not to get too sociological here, but if you are wondering why this country has staggering credit card debt, this is it. The heck with tomorrow, forget history, ignore common sense. The shiny object is attracting us now and so we must have it, regardless of cost.
In this case, though, the object may not even be as shiny as you think. Hamilton’s drug history is long and worrisome, and so are his two known relapses while with the Rangers. He has proven injury prone and even he has wondered at times if his long substance abuse has made his body older than his chronological age — Hamilton turns 31 in eight days.
Remember the last time we wondered if someone was truly 31? That was Albert Pujols during his walk year. There long had been a whispering campaign within the game that Pujols was older than he claimed, which he always has denied.
Before Hamilton’s pyrotechnics at Camden Yards, the last time there was a chain reaction of sound of bat meeting ball, sound of awe, sound of cash register was when Pujols homered three times in World Series Game 3 last year against Hamilton’s Rangers. How could the Cardinals not keep arguably their greatest player ever?
They didn’t. They say they tried. But I think their attempts were designed to fail, to look earnest to their fans while assuring the Cardinals did not have to take such a staggering long-term risk. Instead, St. Louis gambled short term (two years each) on two brittle, but talented players in Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal (who are playing like All-Stars) plus their own winning culture and pipeline (homegrown players such as Jon Jay, David Freese and Lance Lynn are blossoming). St. Louis, minus Pujols, arguably is the best team in the NL.
Pujols got a 10-year, $245 million contract that was supposed to make the Angels a devilish AL West threat to Hamilton’s Rangers. But Pujols’ power outage has sapped the life from the Angels. It is still early. He is Albert Pujols. A rebound is likely. But we barely are out of the first month of the 10-season commitment and we have a glimpse into the future as Pujols ages — whatever his true age — and his skills diminish. Do you think knowing what he knows today, Angels owner Arte Moreno still would do this contract?
Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols, Rangers, chain reaction, cash register