Some interesting material related to Josh Hamilton came out of a Chicago Tribune blog in the past few days.
A Phil Rogers piece mentioned Josh Hamilton’s potential long-term extension being tabled in the wake of the slugger’s recent alcohol relapse. Rogers noted that Hamilton is now likely to test the free-agent waters, though he will likely stay in Texas as other teams may be leery about Hamilton’s substance abuse history.
But then the writer closes by saying that the Milwaukee Brewers could be a possible destination, as coach Johnny Narron recently left the Texas organization, where he was Hamilton’s accountability partner, to join brother Jerry Narron in Milwaukee.
Would Milwaukee Be A Good Fit For Josh Hamilton?
There are a number of things to consider here, mainly that we have an entire spring training, regular season, and post-season to get through before even getting to free agency. Josh Hamilton could keep it clean all season and again produce MVP-like numbers, and his value may be as high as ever. Or maybe Hamilton struggles somewhat, or worse, steers off-course again in his off-field life.
There are just so many variables yet to be factored in, and projecting where a free-agent to be could wind up a year from now is nearly impossible, as evidenced by recent cases – see Albert Pujols/Prince Fielder; who went to the betting window and predicted the LA Angels and Detroit for those two?
But getting past the irony of someone with a recent alcohol/drug addiction wearing ‘Brewers’ on his shirt – would Milwaukee be a good fit for Josh Hamilton??
A lot is talked about in regards to Josh needing a ‘support group’ – maybe Johnny Narron is part of that, and current Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin was a Texas guy too, so there would definitely be a Rangers connection there.
Also, Josh would effectively replace Prince Fielder hitting behind Ryan Braun as a left-handed slugger hitting clean-up. Ryan Braun also strikes me as the type who would be an excellent shoulder for Hamilton to lean on from a professional standpoint.
Pre-season expectations already have the Brewers trending downward to a .500 level in 2012. Prince Fielder is already gone, and (as of this writing) Braun may or may not be facing a 50-game suspension (or perhaps a shorter suspension). This will likely be more of a re-tooling year in Milwaukee, and the organization will likely use the ’12 season to gear up for another potential run in 2013 – and that’s where acquiring a player like Hamilton could fit in.
It goes without saying that any contract any team signs with Hamilton is sure to have language written allowing a team to get out of a contract in the event of a significant relapse, which leads me back to Josh and his continuing personal battle. Regardless of whichever teams he ultimately finishes his career with – there is a cautionary tale from an earlier era involving a player who battled the same issues.
Darrell Porter: A Hamilton-Like Cautionary Tale
With their first-ever draft pick in 1970, the Brewers selected catcher Darrell Porter out of the Oklahoma high school ranks. Porter developed in the Milwaukee organization and had a few decent seasons, but his career took off after becoming a member of the Kansas City Royals in the late-1970’s, in the process having one of the better hitting seasons ever for a catcher up to that point.
But off the field, Porter was quietly fighting a substance abuse problem, and living in fear that MLB would find out at any moment and ultimately suspend him. Porter eventually checked into a rehab center, then returned onto the field, then also re-married, started a family, and (like Josh Hamilton) proclaimed himself as a Born Again Christian.
Porter eventually migrated to the St. Louis Cardinals and won MVP in the 1982 World Series. Although I was bummed to see him beat my Brewers, it was still the culminating chapter of a great story of redemption, and I was personally happy for him. Porter wound up appearing in another World Series for the Cards in 1985 and finished his career two years later with the Texas Rangers.
But the Darrell Porter story did not have a happy ending. In 2002 he was found dead at age 50 alongside his car in Missouri. The subsequent autopsy found levels of cocaine in Porter’s system consistent with those found in typical recreational use.
Which brings me back to Josh Hamilton, and his continuing battle with addiction.
With a monster long-term contract still waiting a year from now, Josh has all the reason in the world to stay on the straight and narrow. But what about ten years from now, when his career is over? There could be coaching, or broadcasting, or helping others fighting the same battle, or some other organizational job within baseball or somewhere else. Hopefully, family will also remain a large part of Hamilton’s life.
In thinking of Hamilton’s daily struggles I think of a an old poster one of my old bosses showed me: a thousand ‘Atta-Boys’ will get one a pat on the back, but one ‘oh-oh’ sends you right back to Square One. Such is the case with Josh Hamilton, who has done much to win the respect of his peers, only to risk losing some or even all of it with each relapse report that leaks out.
The final chapter of the Darrell Porter story shows that one recovering from addiction remains ‘recovering’ for life – and the toughest part of all may not be at this moment, but ten, 20, or even 30 years from now.
Which is why everyone needs to continue to support and root for Josh Hamilton.