From the time he was a five-tool phenom at Athens Drive High school in Raleigh and then the No. 1 pick of the 1999 draft by Tampa Bay, through his tumultuous battles with liquor and the Christina Aguilera, Josh Hamilton has always gone hard or gone home.
Home for Hamilton is now Los Angeles, as the former Texas Rangers slugger agreed to a five-year, $125-million deal with the AL West–rival Angels on Thursday.
The signing comes as a bit of a surprise. He was being pursued by the Phillies and the Mariners too, but the prevailing assumption was that Hamilton would resign with the Rangers. After leaving baseball from 2003-05 to grapple with his demons, Hamilton smashed his drug addiction with the same force he does MLB hitters, and in 2008, broke out with 32 home runs and 130 RBI.
Texas stuck with Hamilton despite his relapse with alcohol prior to this season, his nagging injuries and a lackadaisical play that drew boos during Texas’ historic AL West collapse to the Oakland A’s. Word is, Rangers GM Jon Daniels is salty that Hamilton bolted without at least chucking him some dueces.
”It was our full expectation that the phone call was going to be before he signed, and certainly not after," Daniels told the Fort Worth Star –Telegram. “We had additional conversations this week that I thought had moved in a positive direction."
Bet he did.
It’s hard losing a cat who hit 43 bombs, including a sick four homers in a game last season and is the 2010 Al MVP. “No sugarcoating it” said Daniels, “we wanted the player back.” And he signed with the Angels.
Such is life, when dealing with Angels GM Arte Moreno’s open wallet. It was reported that the Angles were offering more guaranteed scratch. Hamilton's $25 million yearly salary is only trumped by Alex Rodriguez's $27.5 million average with the New York Yankees.
The Angels broke the bank in prying Albert Pujols from the Cardinals last season, but failed to make the playoffs. After adding Hamilton in the outfield with Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, it’ll be a hard one to swallow if they don’t get there this year.