Date: Friday, April 21st
Rangers’ Record: 6-10 (5th, 5.0 games behind Houston)
Tonight’s Opponent: Kansas City Royals
Tonight’s Starters: Nathan Karns (0-0, 4.38) vs. Cole Hamels (0-0, 3.50)
Grant us this one final Hamilton-centric Daily, and then there will be no more.
There was a time when Josh Hamilton was a paradox: on the outside, we saw a fighter jet in human form; a figure who did baseball things that seemed to imply the existence of a team of scientists hell-bent on the destruction of any and all baseballs on the planet. And yet, at the helm of this impossibly talented corporeal being resided ...Josh. The man-child who perpetually reminded us, often in the most profoundly honest and imperfect ways, that no, no: he really was just as human as they come. His story is well-documented, his foibles and feats the stuff of front-page headlines, books, and a hundred thousand articles.
Josh Hamilton was released by the Rangers on Friday. Hamilton’s body once accomplished impossibly majestic feats, but it had betrayed him of late, most recently in Spring Training when he was doing something as routine as running the bases. And now, while rehabbing the left knee, he took a swing, and the right knee gave way, hyperextending. It's the sort of injury, Jon Daniels would later say, that even if Josh were 25, would have kept him out for the rest of the season.
And there it was. After a lifetime of infinite bat-swings, four of which sent baseballs over a wall in Baltimore in one game, one of which appeared at the time to win a World Series, and twenty-eight of which launched baseballs over Yankee Stadium walls to set a first-round home run derby record, there was the final swing. There would be no home run trot, no final ovation, no setting of his spikes on home plate as he waved to the crowd one final triumphant time.
No, perhaps the most talented player to ever play for the Texas Rangers took his last swing in a batting cage in Houston.
1. Jon Daniels spoke to the media today about how he would remember Hamilton. “Some of the highlights, the greatest moments in this franchise’s history, revolved around #32,” Daniels said. Asked if he had a favorite, Daniels responded in the affirmative. Well, sort of:
“Sometimes, if I close my eyes and blank out a couple of things from Saint Louis, I remember when he hit the World Series-winning home run,” Daniels smiled wryly. “That’s how I choose to remember it.”
Jeff Banister wasn’t the manager during Hamilton’s glory years in Texas, but he did remember when Hamilton was at the top of the game: “I remember that Josh was a tremendous athlete, a great player. The combination of speed, power, defense… it seemed like there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do on the baseball field.”
Banister did manage Hamilton in his final days in the big leagues, which came in 2015. He was there for all of Hamilton’s most recent setbacks as well. “Things were challenging for Josh as injuries mounted. It was tough for him to get on the field consistently, but he stil ha that fire to go out and playe tht game of baseball, and still a talented player. When he was on the field, he put goos swings together, still had great power.”
2. If there is any good news from today’s announcement, it was also delivered by Daniels: “I had a chance to talk with Josh yesterday. He came by the park and he’s in a really good spot, all things considered. You know, the reality is that his body is not allowing him to play, period, much less at the level we’re all used to seeing him play at. But on a personal level, with his family and his daughters, he’s in a really good place, and that’s really rewarding for all of us to see.”
3. MEANWHILE The Rangers played last night, winning in 13 innings when Delino DeShields singled home Joey Gallo.
4. There were a number of heroes last night, but two of them might seem unlikely. The first was the most obvious, Delino DeShields, whose 10-pitch at-bat bore the fruit of a walk-off single. The other, however, was the last guy to make the roster out of Spring Training: left-handed reliever Dario Alvarez.
Alvarez said last night that outings like he had–following a train of relievers who had also held the opposition scoreless, keeping up his end of the game–are confidence boosters. His manager believed the same. “Yeah, I think every outing the pitcher goes out and puts zeroes on the board, they’re confidence-builders. Dario, and especially coming off a situation in Oakland where-- I thought he threw the ball well there. He’s on a decent little run of getting guys out.”
But does it matter more in a situation like last night when the team is locked in a 0-0 battle?
“Look, they are alllll big,” Banister said as he leaned forward. “I don’t care if he comes in in the second and we’re already down five. Every out in a Major League game is big. When you think about relievers… Sam Dyson had 73 appearances, and he had 70 innings. (Relievers) have more appearances, but they have fewer outs to get, so every one of them are crucial to them. So, when it comes to relievers, they’re all… they’re collecting silver dollars. Don’t think that one’s less crucial than the next. I get it - on the outside, everyone goes ‘well, it’s just the third inning.’ No. They’re all big.”
5. Another reliever with a big outing last night: Keone Kela, who worked two scoreless innings of his own. “I think last night was as good of stuff as he’s shown in two years,” Banister said confidently. “The fastball, and just the electric curveballs. The curveballs he threw Moustakas, those were pretty special. I would say that’s as good as he’s thrown in two years.”
6. The Rangers send Cole Hamels to the mound tonight. Thrice this season, Hamels has left the game with a lead. Thrice, the Rangers have lost the game. Hamels isn’t worried about the early-season faltering by the team, however: “We all have the right attitude. I think guys here are making the adjustments a little bit faster now, knowing that you can’t let it linger, but we have the talent, and that’s what it takes. It’s just a matter of taking that confidence and playing the game the way we know how.”
Hamels, by his own admission, has walked more than he would like this year. I asked Jeff Banister if Hamels’ command was an issue.
“That’s fair,” Banister started. “However, I think that when you look at Cole throughout his career, starts of seasons, and I think probably if you look back at last year at the start of the season, it was similar. His velo may be a tick down, but it seemed like it was right around that 4th or 5th start last year that really started that upward trend. Better feel for the baseball, a little sharper stuff.”
Hamels’ game log from 2016 doesn’t refute Banister’s claims. Hamels was strong on Opening Day, had a good 4th start, and really began a strong streak in his 6th start, before struggling (by Cole Hamels standards) later in the season.
7. No update (for better or worse) on Beltre
8. A.J. Griffin has been placed on the 10-day DL with inflammation from gout in his left ankle. The Rangers have said that tomorrow’s starter is currently TBA, and that there will not be a corresponding roster move.
…..cccccccccoupla questions about that:
a. So you’re saying Anthony Bass then, right? But-- but then who’s your long man?
b. If you’re not planning on making a corresponding roster move, then why is Round Rock’s starting pitcher tonight all of a sudden listed as “TBA”? That game starts in an hour. (It was supposed to be Allen Webster)
c. why do the Rangers still have two empty 40-man roster spots?
None of this makes any sense to me, least of all why A.J. Griffin has gout. LIterally gout. Everyone pray that this is not another 2014 weird injury storm in the works here.
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