Boo Josh Hamilton -- then let go

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton returns to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Friday afternoon.

Y'all are going to boo him. Loud and long.

Before the game, when the players are introduced, Hamilton's going to get it. And every time he catches a fly ball or steps into the batter's box, the boos will reverberate in his ears.

In a lot of ways, Hamilton deserves it. After all, he quit on the Rangers three times in the last three weeks of last season while the club was in the midst of one of the biggest collapses in major league history.

We all saw it. We all know it.

In the first game of an important six-game road trip in September, Hamilton removed himself from a game against the Angels in the fourth inning because he was suffering from ocular keratitis caused by drinking too many energy drinks.


Then there was his lazy effort going after a fly ball in the last game of the season against Oakland with the division title at stake. Hamilton's two-run error helped the Athletics rally from a 5-1 deficit to win 12-5.

Then there was his sorry, uninspired 0-4 performance on eight pitches in the AL wild-card game against Baltimore.

But Hamilton isn't a bad guy. Immature is a much better way to describe him.

It's the reason he blamed his blue eyes for not being able to hit in the daytime in 2011, when he hit .228 in 127 at-bats. Just so you know, Hamilton and those same blue eyes hit .309 with 11 homers last summer in day games.

It's the reason he chose to stop using smokeless tobacco last summer, resulting in a .202 batting average in June and July as he struggled through withdrawal symptoms. Most folks would have tried to quit in the offseason.

And it's the reason he hasn't spoken to manager Ron Washington since the season ended. No other good reason exists.

He certainly didn't mind stepping into the manager's office more times than we can count last season on those days when his inner demons were eating away at his soul and he needed to talk. Those are the days he shared his darkest thoughts with the manager while searching through Bible verses for comfort.

That said, it's time for Hamilton and the Rangers to move on. The Rangers made a business decision. So did Hamilton.

There's no need for Hamilton to be bitter, because he has the five-year, $125 million contract he craved that will take care of his lovely daughters while helping Hamilton and his wife feed a hurting world.

And the Rangers have moved on, taking some of the cash they didn't spend on Hamilton to sign pitcher Matt Harrison to a five-year, $55 million deal and shortstop Elvis Andrus to an eight-year deal worth as much as $130 million.

Treat Hamilton like an ex and wish him well. There's no need to be angry.

No one wants to be judged by their worst day at work. Or in Hamilton's case, his worst three weeks of work.

His legacy here shouldn't be as a quitter. He was too good for too long. Hamilton was a five-time All-Star who provided a litany of great moments in his time in Texas. He won an MVP and helped make the Rangers one of baseball's best teams. He hit 142 home runs and drove in 506 runs.

No one will ever forget his magical performance in the home run derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008, or his four home run performance against Baltimore last May. And if the Rangers' bullpen had managed to hold onto to the lead after Hamilton's 10th-inning home run in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, we'd probably be talking about how large to make his bronze statue outside the ballpark.

So boo if you must, cheer if you choose.

Hamilton plays for the enemy these days, and his issues belong to the Angels.

Remember the good times. Wish him well.

He's somebody else's problem now.