Did the Devil Make Josh Hamilton Drink?

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Not only has Josh Hamilton’s fall from the wagon into drinking fueled sadness, it’s also spurred horrific, intentionally sappy and outright bad writing.

Stuff like “Hamilton faltered in his quest to stay sober” and references to “the reemergence of Hamilton’s demons” make it sound like it’s not his fault that he started drinking—where he had to know he’d get caught—again.

Whose fault is it then?

Jesus saved him, is it the Devil who sent Hamilton into that bar and tempted him with alcohol?

Don’t go to bars. It’s not difficult.

On one side we have the hard-liners who talk of personal responsibility and for whom one strike is out. On the other, there are the excuse-makers who are calling Hamilton’s drinking a disease. In the middle there are those who couldn’t care less about Josh Hamilton and are using this opportunity to say, “look what great writers we are” when they’re anything but.

I don’t want to hear or read it.

Hamilton is an addict. Addicts are self-destructive. It’s not my responsibility to reason why. It just is. For a player who almost ruined his life and career and resurrected it into becoming an MVP and inspiration because of his recovery, Hamilton has been remarkably conscious of his image. He’s used his Christianity as a shield to protect himself from his stumbles and his “recovery” as the basis to spread the gospel and have books ghostwritten to tell his story while presenting himself as a beacon of what’s possible.

Now the departure from the Rangers’ organization of his longtime friend and sponsor Johnny Narron was mentioned—not overtly blamed, but mentioned—as part of Hamilton’s fall off the wagon.

Don’t blame Narron; don’t blame demons; don’t blame alcohol; don’t blame anyone other than Josh Hamilton because that’s where the responsibility lies.

Who knows how often Hamilton has imbibed privately? What are the odds that he’s still doing things he shouldn’t be doing and has been feted for overcoming?

I’d be shocked if he hasn’t been smoking pot and drinking privately.

I’d be shocked if the Rangers didn’t know about it.

It’s in the realm of absurdity as “Ron Washington only used cocaine that one time” to think that Hamilton’s drinking episodes were limited to 2009 when he was photographed partying with girls in an Arizona bar and this latest incident.

You can believe it or not believe it, but think logically for a second.

It’s preposterous.

Hamilton is a free agent at the end of the year and if he didn’t have this history, he’d be in line for a contract that probably wouldn’t reach the numbers of Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, but would be similar to what Jayson Werth got from the Nationals a year ago.

Now the Rangers would be stupid to even engage in extension talks with him, let alone hand him a guaranteed $120+ million.

Regardless of the smug, self-indulgent phrase-turns of the mainstream media, it’s not a story of triumph, tragedy or a life lesson in adversity.

He shouldn’t drink and he drank. He did so publicly.

I’m more offended than sad that someone of Hamilton’s natural talent is wasting it, but that’s secondary to reality.

He’s someone who should not have been in a bar in the first place, still has major issues and is a split-second away from reverting to his prior addictions.

He has no one to blame but himself. Not Jesus; not the Devil; not Johnny Narron; not anyone other than Josh Hamilton.

If teams are smart, they’ll steer clear of any long-term commitment to him because he can’t be trusted.

That’s not cynicism. That’s truth. Believe it or don’t.


The Sarah Palin Effect and Baseball Nuance

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The Brewers have hired Johnny Narron as their new hitting coach to replace new Cubs manager Dale Sveum.

This gives them two Narrons on the coaching staff—bench coach Jerry Narron along with Johnny.

I’m not being snarky when I ask whether Keith Law has finally realized that Johnny Narron and Jerry Narron are not the same person.

In 2007, when the Rangers acquired Josh Hamilton, Law wrote a piece for ESPN about the move suggesting that they hire the “former Rangers manager” Johnny Narron as a “support system” for Hamilton given Johnny’s relationship with Hamilton in prior years as he recovered from substance abuse issues.

It made perfect sense.

The problem was that it was Johnny’s brother Jerry who was the former Rangers (and Reds) manager. It wouldn’t have been as glaring an error but for Law’s status as a “baseball insider”.

I wrote a blog posting in my loooong-ago blogging home MLBlogs that was indeed snarky—link.

But I’ve evolved since then. Slightly.

Law’s posting was later edited to correct the mistake. But that’s not the point.

There are factual errors and there’s are screwups.

This was a screwup stemming from an empty vault.

Jerry Narron shouldn’t be an unknown quantity for someone who fancies himself as enough of a baseball expert to comment on everything from scouting to stats to player moves to how stupid GMs of today are. In fact, it was Jerry Narron who, along with Brad Gulden, replaced Thurman Munson as one of the Yankees regular catchers for the remainder of the 1979 season after the Yankee captain’s tragic death in a plane crash.

This reminded me of a brief and not unfriendly back-and-forth I had with a fellow Twitter user about Joe Buck. I’d said something to the tune of, “we all know how Joe Buck wound up in the position he’s in” alluding to his father, Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck. The other user, a relatively known blogger attached to ESPN and angling for a position in a baseball front office, said Joe Buck was in his current position because his dad was a former ballplayer.

How, if you want to be a baseball executive, do you not know enough basic baseball history to understand who Jack Buck was and what he was famous for?

It’s the Sarah Palin effect and the nuance of knowledge.

You can cram all the bits of information into anyone’s brain to try and make them sound like they have a baseline comprehension of whatever’s going on, but that doesn’t imply actual knowing—knowing by observation and retaining information as a matter of course through in the trenches work.

It’s why the armchair analysts who have the audacity to sit in front of their computer screens and criticize Tony LaRussa by implying what they would do were they in his position sound so ludicrous.

It’s not about making the statistically viable decision in every circumstance—it’s about handling people and accessing an accumulated experience to do what might seem unconventional or difficult to explain, but works.

This can’t be accrued by regurgitating scouting terminology and being an “expert” in name only; it comes from years-and-years of involvement. If the former governor of Alaska did something as elementary as reading the newspaper on a daily basis, she wouldn’t have had to go through mock debates with her benefactors on suicide watch and praying for the best possible scenario (or a fire) that she not humiliate them with a ridiculous gaffe that a 2nd grader would know was inaccurate.

It’s the same thing in baseball.

Studying statistics and being able to sound like you know what you’re talking about doesn’t make it so.

It’s why a numbers cruncher has no business walking into then-Padres manager Bruce Bochy‘s office and suggesting he bat pitcher Woody Williams second.

It’s why you have to know who Jack Buck, Red Barber, Russ Hodges and Mel Allen were.

And it’s why you should know who a fringe player who replaced a fallen hero and became a big league manager is and that he and his brother are two separate people.

Either you know it or you don’t; and most of those who are accorded credibility in today’s era of internet journalism and repetitive, circular factoids plainly and simply don’t.

It’s easy to tell the difference if you’re actually listening and know what you’re talking about yourself.