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The Comeback
July 6, 2008 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Josh Hamilton was destined to be an all-star baseball player, selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the #1 draft pick in the 1999 MLB draft. By 2002, though, he was a bust, beset by injuries, spending his days downing an entire bottle of Crown Royal and snorting cocaine.

Eventually, he was suspended for two years due to his cocaine use. He hit rock bottom, got clean and sober, and did not play baseball for nearly 4 years. In 2006 attempted a comeback. A Rule 5 draft gamble for the Reds, he made the 2007 team and made his major league debut to a standing ovation. Within weeks he was their starting centerfielder. Dealt to the Texas Rangers in the offseason, he made a thunderous debut and soon led the American League in homers. He currently leads the league in RBI.

Today, he was selected as a starting outfielder for the 2008 AL All-Star team, nine years after he was drafted, six years after he was suspended for drug use, and three years since he returned to organized baseball. He remains thankful for his climb from addiction.
posted by dw (39 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
On a big picture note, even Josh Hamilton can't save the Rangers.
posted by Senator at 4:58 PM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


On a big picture note, even Josh Hamilton can't save the Rangers.

I think saving himself was much more important than saving the Rangers
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:01 PM on July 6, 2008


Great post!
posted by languagehat at 5:03 PM on July 6, 2008


Do an article on me, I never fell victim to any of it, and it was around me all the time.
posted by Senator at 5:07 PM on July 6, 2008


Geez, what a great story. Most of these athletes-come-back stories are trite; this is truly moving. Excellent post, thank you.
posted by etaoin at 5:08 PM on July 6, 2008


Good to see he got better. But as far as I'm concerned, if he really wants to do some good now that he's recovered, he needs to use his position in the community (a famous sportsman) and his story to change law makers attitude towards drug users.

He should be arguing heavily in the media and the public eye for decriminalisation (note; not legalisation) of drugs. As Hamilton will be able to attest, drug users are not criminals; they're sick and locking them up in jail is not the way to help these people.

This is the best way that he can help others beat their addictions; by saving them from the heavy handed arm of the law and campaigning for better, more humane services to treat drug addicts that do not involve police, courts or jail.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:08 PM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Writing as someone who really can't stand baseball.....great story. Excellent post. Thanks.
posted by nevercalm at 5:09 PM on July 6, 2008


Oh, and great post!
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 5:10 PM on July 6, 2008


Josh Hamilton dumped his agent, who stuck with the guy through thin and thinner, on the cusp of the huge deal he's going to get, because "Jesus told him to."

Mostly a good story, but really.
posted by xmutex at 5:15 PM on July 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


...I never fell victim to any of it, and it was around me all the time.
posted by Senator


Politisterical
posted by DU at 5:38 PM on July 6, 2008


The St. Petersburg Times has produced some award winning reporting on Josh over the years. I've met and photographed him a few times and he's really a decent guy and someone who's easy to root for.

A few more stories detailing his repeated comebacks.
posted by photoslob at 5:54 PM on July 6, 2008


Mostly a good story, but really.
posted by xmutex at 5:15 PM on July 6


Yeah, he's a big-time fundie. He's definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed.
posted by photoslob at 5:58 PM on July 6, 2008


Sounds like he swapped addictions for one that doesn't affect his fielding ability (unless he starts seeing angels in the outfield... then they can just trade him to the Angels).
posted by wendell at 6:04 PM on July 6, 2008


Yeah, he's a big-time fundie. He's definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed.

When you're drowning you reach for whatever will keep you afloat.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:08 PM on July 6, 2008


Ugh, let's not LOLXTIANS all over this excellent post, 'kay?
posted by desuetude at 6:20 PM on July 6, 2008


no one is doing that.
posted by Hat Maui at 6:44 PM on July 6, 2008


Reminds me of the sad and slightly more recent Jeff Allison story -- top draft pick to SI drug expose to multiple arrests to minor-league comeback. I hope he finds his healthy happy ending too.
posted by grounded at 6:46 PM on July 6, 2008


Ugh, let's not LOLXTIANS all over this excellent post, 'kay?

Why not? His faith is obviously very important to him and I think it says a lot about him, so why can't this be a part of the discussion?

Every time someone says anything somewhat critical of Christians here, there always seems to be another person saying "UGH NO MORE LOLXTIANS!". If you disagree with other peoples opinions of Christianity and how it relates to the post, either have some sort of rebuttal or don't say anything. You getting upset about it and telling others what they may or may not talk about doesn't really add anything to discussion.

Good post.
posted by wigglin at 6:47 PM on July 6, 2008


You know what? I'll lolxtians up in this piece. LOL. Cuz they're xtians.

Seriously though, I'm as atheist as the next atheist guy, but it sounds like it works for him. I think the whole belief system is utterly ridiculous, but it allowed the guy to pull himself out of the gutter and maybe get back to something that he loves, so it can't be all bad, right?

Right?
posted by nevercalm at 6:56 PM on July 6, 2008


Great story; too many links.
posted by yhbc at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2008


I guess if I had to choose between being a christian and having to get my father-in-law to pay off my drug dealer so he doesn't kill me, I'd take being a christian. Barely though.

Btw, they won today even though they tried their damnedest to lose.
posted by puke & cry at 7:23 PM on July 6, 2008


Pretty amazing story, and a great post. Thanks, dw.
posted by rtha at 8:08 PM on July 6, 2008


Seriously though, I'm as atheist as the next atheist guy, but it sounds like it works for him. I think the whole belief system is utterly ridiculous, but it allowed the guy to pull himself out of the gutter and maybe get back to something that he loves, so it can't be all bad, right?

Except the part where he craps on the agent who has stuck with him through it all just before they both get a payday because Josh wants to be with a Xtian agency. No matter what is one's belief system of choice or lack thereof, that's bad people.
posted by The Michael The at 8:24 PM on July 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


Xtian, XTIAN, LOLXTIAN ...

Stop that.
posted by bwg at 9:21 PM on July 6, 2008


I just re-read my wording of my last post and I didn't mean it the way I wrote it. That should be 2 completely separate statemets and not a comment about Josh being dumb for being a Christian.
posted by photoslob at 9:32 PM on July 6, 2008


Effigy2000 wrote:

they're sick and locking them up in jail is not the way to help these people.

C'mon now, we've known since 1998 that the drug war is just the firewood for the Prison-Industrial Complex

You can't win the game if you don't know what motivates your opponent Effigy2000. Stop listening to the words and focus on the actions. Your first question whenever confronting an insanely ineffective government policy should be: Cui bono?
posted by any major dude at 10:38 PM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Xtian, XTIAN, LOLXTIAN ...
Stop that.


Yeah, it should be Xian, XIAN, LOLXIAN.
posted by grouse at 12:05 AM on July 7, 2008


oh wow, what a comeback and what a story. thank you for bringing that up.
posted by krautland at 1:25 AM on July 7, 2008


Yeah, it should be Xian, XIAN, LOLXIAN.

Technically, yes, but then it looks like you're laughing at a Chinese city.
posted by bwg at 3:17 AM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I went through the same cycle of disgust/respect/disgust on Hamilton that's being relived in this thread. Great job coming from back from disgrace, followed by re-disgust at his treatment of his agent.

As part of my work life, I have spoken with Matt Sosnick (the agent in question) a couple of times, and he's a very down to earth and likeable guy, pretty far away from the slippery Jerry Maguire image. If I had to point out anything negative about Sosnick, in fact, it would be that he's been touched with a pretty deep bitterness about the modern game, which he believes has become much less about nurturing young players, and much more about coddling millionaires. You can hear it in his voice when he talks about how closely he worked with some players since and their families since their high-school days, only to get a special delivery letter from a strange new lawyer telling him the player had moved to Boras or one of his super-agent ilk, who promised fatter contracts and bonuses.

Sosnick is an interesting fellow with a real throwback love of the game. He was interviewed at length for the book License to Deal which is a heck of a read for anyone interested in the shady game behind the game. No affiliation, but high recommendation from this particular throwback.
posted by rokusan at 4:11 AM on July 7, 2008


(The extra "since" in the above is a sign of my own sloppiness. Million dollar arm and a fifty cent head over here.)
posted by rokusan at 4:13 AM on July 7, 2008


Hamilton's biggest problems had been injuries. He missed more than 230 games over his first four professional seasons

they play around sixty games (or more) per season?!??

how long is a season? 14 months?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:03 AM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


They play 162 games a season.
posted by proj at 5:38 AM on July 7, 2008


I just re-read my wording of my last post and I didn't mean it the way I wrote it. That should be 2 completely separate statements and not a comment about Josh being dumb for being a Christian.

...which is totally how I read it, which made it seem all the more snarky given your previous comment. So, sorry for a wee derail based on that misunderstanding.

/devout agnostic, incidentally
posted by desuetude at 7:52 AM on July 7, 2008


162 games per season, which lasts from April to the end of October (-ish, if they make the playoffs). Teams usually play 6 games a week; they may play 10 games in 10 days, depending on scheduling, travel days, and rain delays.
posted by rtha at 8:51 AM on July 7, 2008


Um, to be pedantic, the seasons referred to were minor-league seasons, none of which are 162 games long. The AAA International League (where Hamilton played two seasons) has a 152-game season, while the South Atlantic plays 130.

But, to answer UbuRoivas meta-question: lots. They play lots of games. That's what makes baseball grueling: it's five or six months of playing almost every-day.
posted by rokusan at 9:02 AM on July 7, 2008


Great job coming from back from disgrace, followed by re-disgust at his treatment of his agent.

I get the sense, though, that this happens all the time in the business. Look at ARod end-arounding Boras to sign his new deal with the Yankees -- even after Boras got him that $250M deal in the first place. Or look at the clients Drew Rosenhaus has lost over the years, including Terrell Owens.

I think the deal here is that Hamilton wanted to be with a "Christian" agency and had a "prophetic dream" about it. If Hamilton fired the agent because he wanted his father-in-law or some other relative to be his agent, I don't think anyone would bat an eye. But that happens all the time as well. It's sad, but it's the normal course of business for these guys. They are played to hit things -- balls, pucks, people -- and often have so much money leaking out they aren't noticing their unscrupulous agent/parent/entourage embezzling it.

That's what makes baseball grueling: it's five or six months of playing almost every-day.

And for some younger players, it means the Arizona Fall League (another 4-6 weeks of ball) or winter ball in Latin America (3 months) to improve their skills. And then spring training starts up in February. The young kids are basically playing year round in many different leagues from the time they sign their contract to when they finally secure a major league roster spot.
posted by dw at 2:38 PM on July 7, 2008


Obligatory Update: Last night Hamilton broke the record for number of first round home runs in the Home Run Derby with 28 (including 13 in a row). In seemingly less important news, Justin Morneau won the thing.

This is an incredible accomplishment. While I wish I had the ability to watch videos at work so I could post a few links, I imagine anyone who’s interested has already seen them. Some of the shots had trajectories that would cause them to be mid-range pop fly balls coming off of pretty much anyone else’s bat, but in his case, they soared deep into the upper decks and beyond.

With this performance, Hamilton must be considered the mid-season favorite to win the MVP. (Yes, yes, I know, it’s only supposed to be based on regular season performances and, theoretically, the sportswriters who vote on the award should be able to ignore things like this. But they’re not. Sportwriters, particularly in baseball, are unapologetic fans of the game who rarely just look at the numbers.)

Here’s the thing: I think that what Josh Hamilton did last night was incredibly irresponsible.

Though it’s often referred to as glorified batting practice, the Home Run Derby takes quite a bit out of a player. It’s getting harder and harder to convince first-tier players to participate. Since 2000, when the format was changed, only four players have hit at least 15 home runs in the first round:

Josh Hamilton: 28 (2008)
Bobby Abreu: 24 (2005)
David Ortiz: 17 (2005)
David Wright: 16 (2006)

I could have also made the threshold 12 home runs, and included Giambi’s 2001-2003 campaigns, but I think it’s clear that he was playing under a different set of rules than most others at this point. [NOT-GIAMBIST]

A quick glance at the first and second half stats of the other three players who accomplished this feat reveals that all players suffered either a dramatic drop in either their ability to hit for average or to hit home runs. (Or in Abreu’s case, both.)

Abreu 2005: First Half: .307 AVG, 18HR. Second Half: .260 AVG, 6HR
Ortiz 2005: First Half: .314 AVG, 21HR. Second Half: .282 AVG, 26 HR
Wright 2006: First Half: .316 AVG, 20HR. Second Half: .305 AVG, 6 HR

The Rangers are in an interesting position. They sit 7 games behind a first place Angels team whose Runs Scored/Runs Allowed ratio suggests that they’re either going to have one of the most statistically improbable seasons in baseball history, or they’re going to start losing a lot more games. The Rangers also sit a half game back of an Oakland team who, by their own preseason admission, are in the midst of a “rebuilding year.” Granted, things have been going a lot better than expected, due in no small part to breakout seasons by guys like Duchscherer, and they are historically a very strong second half team. Still, Texas has a very, very legit chance of making the playoffs this season if they continue to play the way they have been. But this DEPENDS on Hamilton’s ability to produce.

Now, I don’t want to spoil the moment for a guy who is in the midst of one of the greatest personal comebacks in sports history. Everyone deserves their moment in the sun. I hope that I’m way off base and he turns it on even stronger from here to the end of the season. I just worry that his desire to be in the spotlight at this point in the season may prevent him and his teammates from enjoying much more meaningful successes later on.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:53 AM on July 15, 2008


So, batting average is a bit of a crap stat. I know this. In the particular usage above I think it's totally legit, but I felt like I ought to give the OPS numbers as well. Especially because so many people are still checking this thread. I'll throw in RBIs as well, even though they're a bit loaded in this context.

Abreu 2005: First Half: 58 RBI, 954 OPS. Second Half: 44 RBI, .787 OPS
Ortiz 2005: First Half: 75 RBI, .981 OPS. Second Half: 73 RBI, 1.024 OPS
Wright 2006: First Half: 74 RBI, .961 OPS. Second Half: 42 RBI, .844 OPS

So my point is slightly weakened, but only in as much as Ortiz is a monster, and teams started applying the shift/pitching around him in the second half.
posted by SpiffyRob at 2:20 PM on July 15, 2008


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