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Josh Hamilton's drop dumbfounding

A team's fan base will put up with botched snaps and dumb interceptions. It'll put up with missing clutch free throws.

It'll even put up with misjudging a fly ball and blowing a save in Game 6 of the World Series.

It won't put up with poor effort.

Josh Hamilton betrayed a patient fan base that has absolved him of his many off-the-field indiscretions and his litany of weird on-the-field issues with a lackadaisical effort to catch a routine fly ball in the season's most important game.

Fans put up with Hamilton's antics because they're mesmerized by his talent, they love his story of redemption and they see their own frailties in his daily struggle for sobriety.

Hamilton has abused that goodwill during the past month.

It began when Hamilton removed himself four innings into a pivotal six-game road trip against Los Angeles and Seattle -- he missed the last five games -- and it culminated with his lazy effort to catch a fly ball Wednesday afternoon against the Oakland Athletics.

With two out and two on, Hamilton casually put his glove in the air and the ball glanced off his black glove.

Instead of turning and sprinting for the ball, Hamilton jogged after it. That's right, in Game 162 with the American League West Division at stake, he jogged after the ball as though it were a game against the Cleveland Indians in the middle of June.

Hamilton I just missed it, man. I didn't break down on it like I needed to. ... I kept going and it came down and I didn't catch it. It sucks.

-- Rangers OF Josh Hamilton

By the time David Murphy eventually fielded the ball, two runners had scampered home as the Athletics completed their rally from a four-run deficit and grabbed a two-run lead.

Oakland won 12-5, but the game was lost right then.

No doubt.

That's the moment the Athletics knew they'd win and the Rangers realized they were going to be part of an epic collapse for the second consecutive season.

"I just missed it, man," Hamilton said of the fly ball. "I didn't break down on it like I needed to. When you run a long way in like that, you're supposed to break down on your toes so you can get there and if it moves on you, you can make the adjustment.

"I didn't. I kept going and it came down and I didn't catch it. It sucks."

After the inning, manager Ron Washington inquired about the play.

"I just asked him what happened, and he told me," Washington told reporters after the game, declining to get into specifics.

At that point I'd have been fine if Washington benched Hamilton, put Craig Gentry in the game and said, "I'm gonna ride with guys who play as if they care whether we win or lose."

Now, Hamilton's apologists will be angry and label anyone who criticizes him a heretic. Others will choose to credit him for owning up to misjudging the ball instead of coming up with one of his usual excuses.

So what.

You don't get credit for doing what you're supposed to do. All you have to do is look at the video of Hamilton's effort on that play as many times as you want.

It won't ever change. He dogged it.

Don't get it twisted; every athlete fails. So any criticism of Hamilton is based on the final regular-season game -- not his abject performance at the plate against the Athletics in the final three games: 2-for-13 with one RBI, one run scored, no walks and five strikeouts.

This is strictly about his failure to compete at the highest level possible. Absurd, considering all that was at stake.

For a dude with 43 homers and 128 RBIs, it's hard to fathom his lasting image from the regular season will be that sorry play.