It's impossible to pinpoint exactly when Josh Hamilton's slump began, but it's very possible to pinpoint exactly when it started to show up in the statistics. Hamilton made this easy for us, as it turns out.
Between the first day of the season and the last day of May, Hamilton batted .368 with a 1.184 OPS. He had 21 home runs, over just 207 trips to the plate. Hamilton was an unstoppable force, generating national headline after national headline, and journalists fell all over themselves trying to write the next story about how Hamilton's next contract could be unprecedentedly insane.
Since the beginning of June, Hamilton has batted .202 with a .687 OPS. Eight home runs, 198 plate appearances. Not long ago, Hamilton was hearing boos, at home, in response to his performance. Those journalists have quieted down. The hyperbole has quieted down. Now we have Josh Hamilton in an extended slump during which he's been striking out entirely too often.
So something must be the matter with Hamilton, right? Over consecutive samples of 200 plate appearances, normal players don't often see OPS fluctuations of 500 points. Something is the matter, according to Hamilton. He just won't say more.
"The frustrating part is dealing with (the media) and not being able to share everything with you guys," Hamilton said. "When the time is right, you guys will be right in the loop."
"The issues is something that I think Josh would definitely have to be the one to expose. It's certainly not physical. It has nothing to do with injuries. Josh is the one that made the statement and got all the inquiries going, and I think Josh is the one that has to put a rest to the inquiries, not Ron Washington. I can just tell you one thing: It is not because he's hurt."
There's no sense in trying to speculate. Hamilton evidently isn't struggling with anything physical, and there'd be no reason for people to be so secretive if this matter were mechanical. Also, Hamilton isn't dealing with anything that's regularly keeping him out of the lineup, although, I don't know, maybe he should be out of the lineup more. These days he's not exactly helping.
We don't know what the matter is, and while we might in time, and while it might even explain away everything, the entire slump, this is presently a mystery for a mysterious player who's on the verge of becoming a free agent. What Josh Hamilton has never needed is another question mark. People will wonder enough things about Hamilton without him adding another issue onto the pile. Of course, this isn't the time for Hamilton to be thinking about his next contract. This is the time for Hamilton to be trying to help the Rangers make the playoffs.
Without knowing what's going on with Josh Hamilton, we can't know if that's the real problem, and we can't know if and when it could be resolved. As long as Josh Hamilton's something of an unknown, the Rangers will be something of an unknown, and that's a team that's slipping. At present just 5½ games separate the Rangers from not being in the playoffs at all. Hamilton isn't a guy who can be expected to drive the whole team, but the team could really use a more productive Josh Hamilton down the stretch. Who knows if they'll get it?