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On paper, it seems as if Josh Hamilton would be a perfect fit for the Red Sox. He’s a perennial All-Star who is coming off a season in which he shattered his career high in home runs (43) and won his third Silver Slugger award. He would immediately fill the massive hole in the lineup that was left when the Red Sox traded away Adrian Gonzalez last summer.
But as the old saying goes, games are not exactly won on paper.
When it comes to building teams, there are more than just past statistics that need to be considered. As is the case with all players, and in this one in particular, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington needs to look at all the red flags that would come in signing Hamilton.
After the debacle that was the 2011 and 2012 seasons, one of the team’s key factors should be the character and makeup of any acquisition. Hamilton is the exact opposite of the clubhouse culture that they need. Not only would a player with a history of substance abuse be a terrible addition to a team with a recent history of alcohol problems, but some of Hamilton’s behavior is oddly similar to the three Red Sox players who were recently jettisoned away by the team. Bringing Hamilton to Massachusetts would be the wrong thing to do given his drug-abuse past.
Last July, when Hamilton was in the middle of a horrible slump he offered this quote as a reason why he had been struggling:
“I’ve been shown a lot of things over the past week,” he said. “There’s disobedience and there’s obedience to God. I’ve been being disobedient. It may be a small thing to you, but it’s a big thing to Him. There’s consequences. It’s like a father and a kid. There are disciplines.”
Hamilton doesn’t deserve to be jumped on because he is man of faith, but blaming your baseball struggles on someone other than themselves is not something that flies in Boston. Fans would jump over that quote in Boston and it would send Hamilton into an even bigger tailspin when he felt the wrath of the Fenway crowd. It is similar to what Adrian Gonzalez said at the end of the 2011 season when he blamed God for the Red Sox not making the playoffs. This team needs its players to be accountable in order to right the ship, and signing Hamilton would be another step in the wrong direction.
When Hamilton’s hot, he is as good as any player in the game, but when he’s struggling, it can be for a myriad of reasons. Last August, when he uttered the quote about his religion, there was another factor in his struggles. Hamilton had recently quit chewing tobacco and the result was a sudden drop in his performance. Rangers team president Nolan Ryan ripped Hamilton apart for choosing to quit in the middle of the stretch run as opposed to during the offseason. Late last year, Hamilton missed several games because of high caffeine consumption. This caused a vision problem that had been blamed as a reason for Hamilton’s poor performance.
When the Red Sox won their first world championship in 2004, Curt Schilling was playing through a ruptured tendon in his leg. But with Hamilton, the slightest change in chewing tobacco or caffeine levels can affect his performance. The Red Sox need more of the former: players who aren’t excuse makers. They put up or shut up. Dustin Pedroia is a perfect example of this. He played through a broken ring finger during meaningless games last year because he wanted to change the culture in the clubhouse. To truly change the culture, they will need players who are committed solely to winning and will take responsibility for poor play. Signing Josh Hamilton would just continue the cycle of questionable character which has caused this team to take a significant nosedive.