Against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, Josh Hamilton did something amazing. Technically, Josh Hamilton does something one could consider amazing every time he plays, but Tuesday he was especially amazing. You already know the story, because everybody already knows the story. He hit four home runs. Four home runs, in five trips to the plate! Four home runs and a double in nine swings! Tuesday night, Josh Hamilton made baseball history.
Lest you try to rain on the achievement parade, there have been fewer four-homer games by position players than there have been perfect games by pitchers. Okay, sure, Josh Hamilton had his four-homer game against the Baltimore Orioles, and maybe in your opinion the Orioles can't pitch. Philip Humber threw his perfect game against the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field, and one could argue that the Mariners can't hit, especially in Safeco Field. The fact that conditions might have made Hamilton's four-homer game a tiny bit more likely doesn't mean that his four-homer game was in any way likely. Five at-bats. Four home runs, and a double.
In the aftermath of such an explosion, you'd think that we'd see a similar, slightly delayed explosion of articles discussing how amazing it all was. You know, the way you do after amazing performances or amazing baseball games. Here's what I saw. An article from Jeff Passan:
An article from Jon Heyman:
Hamilton wants to be paid like 'elite' player but Rangers should be cautious
An article from Bob Nightengale:
Josh Hamilton: Four-homer night complicates Rangers' dilemma
(The dilemma is Hamilton's contract.)
The ESPN/MLB front page:
Tuesday night, Josh Hamilton hit four home runs (and a double, can't forget about that double) in one nine-inning baseball game. The response has largely been to talk about Hamilton's contract negotiations, because Hamilton is a pending free agent, and he presents an interesting case.
And he most certainly does present an interesting case. Genetically speaking, there's never been a pending free agent quite like Adam Kennedy, but there's really never been a pending free agent quite like Josh Hamilton. Is he the most purely talented position player in baseball? Is he a drug addict likely to relapse? Is he too unreliable? Does his talent off-set his unreliability? It's going to be fascinating to examine whatever contract Hamilton ends up signing.
But, two things. For one, we spent so much of the spring talking about Josh Hamilton's contract negotiations. Remember that, when Hamilton's side and the Rangers were talking contract? Tons of people wrote about it. Tons of the same people wrote about it. At the time, Hamilton was a supremely-talented baseball player with extraordinary question marks. Today, on May 9, Hamilton is a supremely talented baseball player with extraordinary question marks. Next to nothing has changed. Why revisit the same topic? Why write what's been written? Why write what's been written within just a couple months?
And for two, Josh Hamilton hit four home runs and generated 18 total bases in one baseball game. Hamilton had one of the greatest games in the history of Major League Baseball. Why not write about that? Why not take some time to appreciate what Josh Hamilton did on a baseball field, instead of using that to fuel something written about what Hamilton might do at a later date in somebody's office?
The guy who made the most sense was Peter Gammons on Twitter, and if you're familiar with his history, you know that sometimes Peter Gammons makes literally zero sense on Twitter. Said Gammons Wednesday morning:
Could we enjoy the Hamilton history before turning it into a comtract discussion?— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 9, 2012
He's exactly right, except for the comtract part. Hamilton's performance was a historic performance to be appreciated, and somehow I feel like it's being glossed over. Not by everybody, but by too many bodies. What's important right now isn't Josh Hamilton's next contract. What's important is what Josh Hamilton just did to pitchers on a baseball field.
I know that it can be hard to write something original or properly appreciative after a game like this, which comes out of the blue. Nobody figured Hamilton would hit four home runs in Baltimore and he did it at night, meaning writers had to turn around pretty quick to churn out their content. That's the business. I think that's an excuse for maybe not writing the best thing one's ever written, but I don't think that's a valid excuse for taking the complete wrong approach.
And I do recognize that by writing about people who aren't making enough of what Hamilton just did, I'm not making enough of what Hamilton just did. This article probably isn't a part of the solution. But I don't think it's a part of the problem, where the problem is thinking about Hamilton's contract instead of Hamilton's figuratively mind-blowing numbers.
Josh Hamilton hit four home runs in one baseball game*. Matt Kemp and Rickie Weeks failed to hit four home runs in last year's Home Run Derby. That is the story. It is one hell of a story. I don't know why everybody isn't trying to write that story. The other story isn't the least bit fresh or the least bit time-sensitive. Something's gone awry, and this moment, this historic moment, is already passing.
* and a double