Rooting for Josh Hamilton

Following in the footsteps of Frank Robinson, Josh Hamilton could forever be the one who got away from the Reds. But the reason Hamilton was deemed expendable (wrongly, in retrospect) keeps popping up, while Robinson’s exile is still a mystery.

Following in the footsteps of Frank Robinson, Josh Hamilton could forever be the one who got away from the Reds. But the reason Hamilton was deemed expendable (wrongly, in retrospect) keeps popping up, while Robinson’s exile is still a mystery.

Neither trade worked for the Reds — let’s get that out of the way quickly. Both Robinson and Hamilton went on to win MVP awards with their new teams, while the main player each was traded for only won 30 games for the Reds, each with an ERA north of 4.00 (Milt Pappas was 30-29 with a 4.04 ERA in 75 starts for the Reds, while Edinson Volquez was 30-18 with a 4.17 ERA in 73 starts in Cincinnati). There’s no way that’s a good deal. 

But — and there will always be the “but” with him — Hamilton will always be a risk, for injury or relapse. Hamilton knew he might be headed out of Cincinnati when his lone season for the Reds was coming to a close in 2007. One day near the end of the season, he asked me if I’d heard about him being traded. I brushed it aside — why would the team trade an outfielder with that kind of talent? Turned out, I was wrong. Really wrong.

There was concern, not just about Hamilton’s past with drugs and alcohol, but also his history of injuries, something he’s not been able to shake, even during his 2010 MVP season. But it was the chance of relapse that made many nervous. And last week, for the second time since joining the Rangers, Hamilton admitted to a relapse.

The reports leaked out during the week that he’d been seen drinking in Dallas, and then Hamilton himself stepped up and admitted the transgressions. That too has been a pattern with Hamilton.

When he was with the Reds, Hamilton had a press conference at the start of every road series in a new city, telling his story over and over. One day I asked him if he ever got tired of telling the same story. And what he said struck me, and I thought about it again last week: He said he liked talking about it, that he wanted the media to talk about it and hold him accountable.

Some wondered why it was news at all, that if he wanted to throw back some beers it was none of our business. But Hamilton made it our business and wanted it to be our business. 

I hadn’t talked to Hamilton since he was traded until last July at the All-Star Game in Arizona, but we caught up for a couple of minutes, talking about our families. I’m still rooting for the guy and probably always will, in part because he’s always taken full responsibility for his actions. What always stuck with me was that he’d never blame the guy who first introduced him to drugs — instead, he said, “He wasn’t a bad person, he was just into some bad things.” After that, he took full accountability for his actions, just as he did last week. That attitude is precisely why I’m still rooting for Hamilton, and I’m certainly not alone in this town.

Thinking Out Loud 

For his entire career, Chad Ochocinco talked about how he just wanted to go to the Super Bowl and didn’t care about the attention. Still, all his actions have seemed geared toward getting attention, and the first time he got to the Super Bowl he garnered very little. And, according to his Twitter feed, he celebrated his one-catch performance in Indianapolis by returning to Cincinnati to appear in court for having too dark of window tint on his car. ... Because I live in Cincinnati, my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline were filled with people shocked Cam Newton easily won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Andy Dalton had a great rookie year, but Newton had a historical rookie season, breaking Peyton Manning’s record for most passing yards by a rookie and scoring more rushing touchdowns than any other quarterback in league history. Newton was the first player in league history to throw for more than 4,000 yards and run for 500. He did what people thought Michael Vick could do — except he’s only going to get better. Dalton helped his team get to the playoffs, something that’s impressive but has been done before. The Bengals had a better season than anyone expected, and Dalton was a big part of that — but no rookie has ever been in the class of Newton. ... Nice month or so for Moeller alums — first Barry Larkin gets elected to the Hall of Fame and now Greg Jones wins a Super Bowl ring. Jones, a rookie linebacker for the Giants, became the second Moeller grad on a Super Bowl winner, joining Steve Sylvester, who won three rings with the Raiders.

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