Josh Hamilton gives mixed messages

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers fans showered Josh Hamilton with boos during his 0-for-4 performance in what might have been the five-time All-Star's last game with the franchise.

"You hate to have it happen possibly the last game ever here, but at the same time, it's one of those things," Hamilton said after Texas' 5-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in Friday night's one-game American League wild-card round. "I gave it my all every time I went out there. Hopefully, (fans) appreciated it more than they didn't. I think they do. It's one of those things, hey, we didn't get a win, but you can't win them all."

Hamilton gave mixed messages about his upcoming decision as a free agent, saying he'd "absolutely" give the Rangers the right to match any offer but would choose his next team solely on the word he receives from God.

"I always would love to stay here," said Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP and a key cog for the Rangers' two World Series teams. "They understand that. They know that. When we talked earlier in the year, we didn't get things worked out, so we said we'd wait until the year was over. They obviously get first shot. I told them they'd get first shot at the end of the year. We'll see what happens."

Asked later what would factor into his decision, the devoutly religious Hamilton said, "With prayer, where God says so. With prayer, where God says so. And with prayer, where God says so. Period. He's always led me to the right places."

If this was the conclusion of Hamilton's tenure with Texas, it ended with a thud.

Hamilton's late-season slump, which came on the heels of a mysterious five-game absence for an eye condition doctors told him could have been caused by too much caffeine, coincided with Texas' collapse. Hamilton went 10-for-43 with no homers, no walks and 19 strikeouts as the Rangers lost eight of their last 10 games, getting swept by the Oakland A's to lose the AL West title on the last day of the regular season before being bumped from the postseason by Baltimore.

Hamilton saw only eight pitches in his four at-bats Friday night. He grounded into a double play in the first inning to bring home the Rangers' lone run, struck out on three pitches in the third, grounded out to the pitcher in the sixth and struck out on three pitches again when he represented the tying run in the eighth inning.

The boos at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington grew louder after each Hamilton at-bat. He said he also heard obscenities shouted at him.

"Personally, myself, it never would matter how high I was -- if I went to a sporting event, I would never boo somebody or I would never yell obscenities at somebody," said Hamilton, a recovering drug and alcohol addict whose off-field issues delayed the beginning of the former No. 1 overall pick's major league career until he was 26. "That's just me."

Manager Ron Washington and teammates were supportive of Hamilton after the loss, saying they appreciated everything he'd done for the Rangers for the past five years.

"I understand that baseball is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of sport," outfielder David Murphy said, "but it almost feels like he was taken for granted when he's booed like that."

Hamilton, whose effort and commitment were heavily scrutinized by the media after a critical, lackadaisical error in Wednesday's division-deciding loss in Oakland, insisted the boos didn't bother him. He said ticket-buying fans have the right to boo if they want.

Hamilton also said the harsh treatment from the fans would not factor into his decision as a free agent.

Hamilton admitted he had thoughts about his strikeout in the eighth inning possibly being his last at-bat for the Rangers but those thoughts were drowned out by boos.

"To the fans, it's been a good ride," Hamilton said. "No matter if you send me off with boos or not, I still love you."

The boos brought a Bible verse to Hamilton's mind, although he couldn't remember the exact scripture: "If they don't receive you in a town, shake the dust off your feet and move to the next."