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Josh Hamilton's worth will be proved only by his actions

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton wants you to know he can still play baseball at the highest level.

It's up to him to prove it.

Hamilton, who said he is tested for drugs and alcohol five times a week, has put a support group in place to help him maintain his sobriety.

He needs to prove that, too.

Hamilton wants you to know he intends to mend the fractured relationship with Texas Rangers fans, the result of his occasional lack of effort and infamous remarks about Dallas-Fort Worth not being a baseball town.

He's gotta prove that, too.

See, Hamilton's words mean nothing. We've heard a lot of the same stuff after the two previous times he acknowledged having a relapse.

Hamilton's actions? They mean everything.

It took time for him to build trust here, and it will take time to regain. But if he plays hard every day and produces, fans will forgive, like they always do.

Understand, Hamilton is an addict, and he doesn't run from it. He actually embraces it, which is why he likes having a support team in place to help him deal with his daily battle of addiction.

Like many addicts, however, Hamilton is adept at telling us what we want to hear. More to the point, he's an expert at what we need to hear.

Right now, his career is in shambles. After the Los Angeles Angels had signed him to a five-year, $125 million contract, they essentially paid him nearly $70 million to go away.

They traded Hamilton to a division rival on Monday for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Perhaps the Rangers will throw in pair of Jordans and a couple of tickets to the John F. Kennedy museum.

Hamilton, who has four daughters, ages 3 to 14, also is going through a divorce.

The game is more of a refuge than it has ever been for him, and he's not afraid to admit it.

"I need baseball. I love baseball," he said Monday. "I've been playing it since I was 3 years old.

"Baseball is coming to an end soon, and the reason I'm making certain changes in my life is I want to be OK after baseball is over. So I've done a lot of growing and soul-searching.

"I want to end my career having fun," he continued. "If I'm having fun, then everything else will take care of itself."

The Rangers certainly hope a happy Hamilton is a productive Hamilton. General manager Jon Daniels appears to be tempering his enthusiasm, but you can tell he's excited about adding Hamilton.

"I wouldn't count him out," Daniels said. "He missed four years and came back and was the best player in baseball. It wouldn't surprise me if he was a productive player."

At this point, however, Hamilton is a shell of the player who hit 43 homers and drove in 128 RBIs in 2012. But that doesn't mean he couldn't or wouldn't still be the most powerful outfielder on this team.

We're almost a month into the season, and the Rangers' outfielders have combined to hit three home runs. No one has more than one homer.

In two seasons with the Angels, Hamilton hit 31 homers and drove in 123 RBIs. His bat has slowed, and his body betrays him a little more each season. There's a good chance one more failed drug or alcohol test could end his career.

You can blame some of Hamilton's lack of production on injuries, and you can blame the 33-year-old ballplayer for losing his discipline at the plate.

But you also can blame the Angels for their inept handling of Hamilton.

The Rangers created an environment that allowed Hamilton to thrive, whether it was making his accountability partner part of the baseball staff or former manager Ron Washington reading scriptures with Hamilton.

If the Angels were smart, they would have copied every facet of the structure the Rangers had in place. When they didn't, it ruined any chance for Hamilton to thrive.

He is a player who needs peace of mind to thrive more than most.

Though he was raised in North Carolina, Hampton referred to Texas as home several times during a 20-minute news conference. He wore a plaid shirt, jeans and brown cowboy boots, so he looked the part.

"As an athlete, when you have distractions, that can mess with your routine. That can mess with your focus, and I had some unfortunate injuries," Hamilton said of why he struggled with the Angels. "All of those things are involved with how you feel, how you prepare. I'm doing the best I can to limit distractions."

Hamilton met his new teammates Monday afternoon, addressing them in the clubhouse.

He didn't say much.

Good.

Hamilton's actions will tell us everything we need to know.