View Full Version : Tampa Bay: Go ahead, kick yourselves

05-09-2007, 10:12 AM
Didnt see this posted here and thought it was an interesting look at the Hamilton story from the Tampa Bay perspective:

Published May 8, 2007

The story is too perfect, the emotions too genuine.

How can you not cheer for second chances? For redemption? For wishes coming true and endings heading for happy?

How can you not cheer for Josh Hamilton?

Even if it's with gritted teeth.

The nation is infatuated with Hamilton's revival as a Cincinnati Reds rookie, and here in Tampa Bay we must nod and applaud. Albeit, politely and gently.

Goodness gracious, do you know how long we waited for this? How much the Devil Rays invested in this? A No. 1 draft pick. More than $4-million. Rehabs and appeals. Disappointments and heartaches.

All so we can watch his major-league debut from afar, and see his star rise in the uniform of another color?

Hamilton's return from cocaine addiction is threatening to become the story of the major-league season, and the blunder of Tampa Bay's blunderful history.

This could be worse than Wilson Alvarez. Worse than Greg Vaughn and Vinny Castilla. And, yes, worse than Bobby Abreu.

In his first five weeks in the majors, Hamilton hit over .300 with eight home runs and was named the National League's top rookie for April. He is stealing bases, drawing walks and generally looking like a franchise-type player.

Just for the wrong franchise.

The Rays allowed the Reds to snatch Hamilton via the Rule 5 draft in December for $50, 000, and a lot of angst to be named later.

It was, needless to say, a huge mistake.

Oh, the Rays had their reasons, some legitimate and some discovered in hindsight. But Gen. Custer had reasons for riding through Little Bighorn, and John Lennon had reasons for giving Yoko a microphone.

Doesn't mean they weren't big mistakes.

The problem was not a lack of forethought by the Rays front office, but perhaps a case of out-thinking themselves. The Rays were worried about procedural issues with a player who had already been taken off the 40-man roster once previously. They were banking that no team would take a chance in the Rule 5 draft where a drafted player, by rule, has to remain on a major-league roster all season. They were thinking of a lot of angles, while forgetting one important fact:

This was the most gifted athlete the team had ever drafted.

Sure, B.J. Upton was a great prep player. Rocco Baldelli and Delmon Young were, too. But none had the potential of Hamilton. When he was the top pick in the 1999 draft, he was considered the best prep prospect since Alex Rodriguez.

Naturally, that potential had dimmed considerably over the years. Hamilton had been injured or suspended for nearly four full seasons. He had struggled to maintain his sobriety after numerous attempts at rehab. And when he resumed his career in the low minors in 2006, he was slow to get untracked.

So, yes, the odds were long in his comeback. And few people, myself included, could have foreseen him restarting his career with such a bang.

But that's not the point.

This guy simply had too much upside to risk losing. Even if there were only a 10 percent chance that he would fulfill his potential, he remained more valuable than most of the players on the 40-man roster.

And that's where Tampa Bay's rationalizations fall apart. No matter how many issues were surrounding Hamilton, he could still be a special talent. And you do not let special talents knowingly slip through your fingers.

Maybe, if Hamilton cools off down the road and becomes a routine major-league outfielder, this won't seem such a gosh-awful episode in Rays lore.

And maybe, if vice president Andrew Friedman keeps coming up with gems such as Al Reyes, Aki Iwamura and Ty Wigginton, it will be easier to swallow.

But this morning, it doesn't look good.

The Rays are rightfully lauded for assembling an exciting young outfield of Baldelli, Young and Carl Crawford. Yet imagine how that outfield might look with Hamilton, who has a higher batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage and more home runs than any of the other three.

Imagine how much excitement there would be in the bleachers of Tropicana Field for a player who survived a living hell to reach the major leagues.

That's the story showing up in headlines and magazines. That's the story that has people talking Rookie of the Year. That's the feel-good story of the year.

So, yeah, it's our duty to follow the rest of the nation and applaud the minor miracle that is Josh Hamilton's life.

But it's also our right to lament what might have been.

One comment I have is there is no guarantee that Josh would be having this kind of success in TB as he is having in Cincy. I think he had no intense pressure to succeed here but the pressure would have been there big time in TB. Like the writer says they had spent all of the money and effort to get him back to the point that he is at right now and they were expecting big things from him, dogonnit. I think Josh got not only a fresh start here but he had no "baggage" in the Cincy clubhouse and he could just focus on what he needed to do to get ready.

05-09-2007, 10:18 AM
Well there is the whole Kazmir for Zambrano trade so I'd say the scales have evened out for Tampa.

05-09-2007, 10:45 AM
Where exactly would he get to play in TB? They already have more OF than they know what to do with. I certainly understand the writers position, but what of Young, Dukes, Crawford, Baldelli? If Hamtilon is in A ball right now, would he be pushing one of those guys off the roster?

05-09-2007, 11:03 AM
Hamilton talks about how much fun he is having now, and I'm sure it's sincere.

I wonder if he was stuck in A or AA, and having those long boring bus rides without the support network Narron has here, if life would be as fun for him.

Not attacking Josh's character, but the Reds gave him a tremendous opportunity to win a starting job. I doubt he would've had the chance to make the Tampa Roster this year. Many people step it up when given a great opportunity. Some of those same people are less motivated when blocked in a dead end job that bores them..

If Tampa protects him, there may not be a feel good story this year, or ever.

05-09-2007, 11:39 AM
That writer has 20/20 hindsight.

05-09-2007, 01:47 PM
The reason that Tampa Bay didn't protect Hamilton was because their minor league system is absolutely loaded with top-tier prospects. According to Rotoworld Tampa Bay has 11 of the top 100 minor league prospects -- not including Hamilton. The average team has only 3 such prospects.

That is the benefit of having a top-five draft pick every year. They have to protect all of them in addition to their big-leaguers on the 40 man roster. They just reached a point where they couldn't fit all their top prospects into the list of protected players. So they had to make some hard decisions.

They elected to leave Hamilton unprotected because they didn't think anyone would be willing to keep him on their major league team all season due to his history of substance abuse, long layoff and complete lack of experience above A-ball. It was a reasonable gamble, but it backfired of course (to our benefit!). If they had protected Hamilton then they would have been forced to leave one of their other studs unprotected.

05-09-2007, 01:57 PM
I've had the chance to speak directly to people who know and knew Josh during his off years...since he began his sobriety he has wanted one thing and one thing only and that was to get back on the ball field...according to these people it didn't matter at what level or with whom, he just wanted a chance to get back out there again and play...I have a feeling if he were in the Minors right now he would be pressing someone out of the way ahead of him regardless of what team he was with.

05-09-2007, 02:07 PM
If they had protected Hamilton then they would have been forced to leave one of their other studs unprotected.

I see what you're saying in the rest of your post, but as for the above, I don't think that's the case. A right fielder by the name of Damon Hollins was on their 40 man at the time of the Rule V draft. Tampa Bay has since released him, and he is currently playing for the Yomiuri Giants of a Japanese Baseball League. SImply put, Damon Hollins was never very good for any MLB team, and it's really inexcusable to use a 40 man roster spot on him over Josh Hamilton.

05-09-2007, 04:47 PM
It used to be the Red Sox with the curse, now TB can have fun for the next 90 + years. The curse of the Hambino, or I like to call it "The Natural Curse". And of course we all know what great things "The Babe" brought the Yankees.


05-09-2007, 04:48 PM
The curse of the Hambino