Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 5/9/12

Last night, Josh Hamilton crushed four home runs in a single game, becoming only the 16th player in MLB history do so.

Normally, that would sum up such a superlative single-game feat.

Not with Hamilton.

Is there anyone in the game today more fun to watch than Josh Hamilton? (Photo by User Keith Allison on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons)

Josh Hamilton – the best bang for your baseball buck

In addition to his four home runs last night, Hamilton also doubled. His 18 total bases in a single game set an AL record. He also drove in eight runs. His OPS for the game was 4.600.

Oh, and he also hit a home run in his final at bat the night before, meaning that Hamilton is 6-6 with 5 HRs, 1 2B, 5 R, and 10 RBI in his last six ABs.

Want more interesting Hamilton nuggets? How about this, which our own Jon Washburn sent to me by email this morning:

In 2001 (the year he hit 73 dingers), Barry Bonds had 14 home runs on May 9. Currently, Josh Hamilton has 14 homers. Just saying…

While walking into my office today, a thought struck me: someday it is going to be fun telling my grandkids about Josh Hamilton.

He is truly one of the unique athletes of my lifetime, and that’s without even taking into account his backstory. That makes him one of the compelling athletes ever. But just his athletic talent alone, his pure and unbridled baseball genius, is mind-boggling.

I’ve been fortunate enough to live down here in Dallas since 2008, which coincided with Hamilton’s arrival and emergence as a baseball superstar. So I’ve not only gotten to see fan and analyst sentiment from up close, and watch his personal ups and downs from up close, but I’ve also gotten to see him play in person many, many times.

And one thing about Josh Hamilton is that he is always worth the price of admission.

I’ve seen him hit upper deck home runs. I’ve seen him line singles over the infield. I’ve seen him double into the gap. I’ve seen him deliver clutch RBIs. I’ve seen him take an extra base. I’ve seen him steal a base. I’ve seen him whiff gloriously (because, yes, even his swinging strikeouts are sights to behold). I’ve seen him make perfect throws. I’ve seen him crash into the wall to make a spectacular catch.

And I’ve seen him celebrate with Ginger Ale after beating the Yankees in Game 6 of the ALCS to win the AL Pennant.

Basically, over 4+ years and probably 15-20 games at The Ballpark in Arlington, I’ve seen Josh Hamilton do literally everything on a baseball field. That is what makes him such a special player. He can do it all, and he does. He is a special combination of prodigious talent plus love for the game mixed with grit, heart, and a team-first attitude.

What I’m trying to say is that there is no other baseball player I’d rather pay money to see. And it’s not close.

If you pay to attend a game Josh Hamilton plays in, he will do something special or memorable. There aren’t many players in the history of the game you can say that about.

Really, there just aren’t that many players in the history of the game like Hamilton.

He missed too many of his younger years to accumulate the aggregate numbers of the all-time greats, but those of us who were avid baseball fans during his prime will always know just how truly great he’s been when healthy and of sound mind.

Few ever have been better. Even fewer have been more fun to watch.

And I’d have said that before last night.

Thinking about all of this today led me to wonder what other current MLB players are Josh Hamilton All Stars — or the guys I’d pay the  most to see play. It certainly wasn’t hard to come up with #2 on the list.

Matt Kemp

Hamilton leads the AL in all three Triple Crown categories. Only Kemp’s own teammate Andre Ethier is keeping Kemp from doing the same in the NL.

Frankly, Kemp is the Hamilton of the National League in more ways than one: he plays center field; he hits for average and power; he has a style and grace to his game that makes him especially fun to watch.

Right now in baseball there is Hamilton, there is Kemp, and there is everybody else. It’s like these two have been playing a different sport so far in 2012. They are dominating, and it’s a joy to watch.

Miguel Cabrera

As good as Hamilton and Kemp have been this year, and intermittently in previous seasons, neither can approach the consistency of the Colossus of Cabrera. Please, click here and marvel at the consistency.

I was trying to think of how to compare Cabrera to historical greats, and the following hit me: take 95% of Manny Ramirez and 85% of Babe Ruth, put it into a ballplayer blender, and you’d get Cabrera. He’s big, he hits for average and power, he’s charismatic but can seem mercurial, and he’s on an indefatigable charge toward legendary aggregate statistics.

And now that Cabrera is playing the hot corner, it makes him even more fun to watch. Brooks Robinson he ain’t, but Cabrera can move pretty well for a guy his size, and watching anyone that size play third base is entertaining. It’s added a new level to the Cabrera Experience.

Roy Halladay

He’s the best pitcher of the last decade, hands down, case closed.

No, you aren’t likely to see many offensive fireworks during a Halladay start, but you are getting the chance to watching a pitching Picasso paint and masterpiece, which he usually does.

And sometimes, even in the playoffs, he does something really special.

Clayton Kershaw

Speaking of pitchers, I’ll throw the young Dodgers’ lefty in the mix as well. Not only would it be fun to see his cartoon-like curveball in person, but it’s always fun to watch a guy work who strikes out more than a batter per inning.

Plus, Kershaw has yet to throw his inevitable perfect game or no-hitter. Wouldn’t you want to be in attendance when he does?

(Note: while we’re on the subject of pitchers, I feel like I should address Justin Verlander’s glaring “omission” from this list. If this list were objective rather than subjective, I’d probably include Justin Verlander. However, this is my list and I don’t like Verlander through the good-guys-wear-black-colored glasses with which I view him. Why would I want to pay to see Verlander dominate the opposition and win a game that would hurt my White Sox in the standings? I wouldn’t…but you might, if you’re not a fan of a team in the AL Central.)

Bryce Harper

Yep, I’m buying into the hype.

It’s not often a 19-year old makes it to the majors. When one does, it is because he is supremely talented. Even so, those 19-year olds almost always hit low in the order and often up having relatively nondescript impacts on their teams.

Not Harper.

The Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball and he’s been hitting right in the middle of the order and producing.

Plus, he brings more to the table than just his bat. He’s already excited fans with throws from the outfield, his general hustle, and some supreme base-stealing instincts that led to one of the most exciting plays in baseball: the steal of home.

Sure, Harper will be fun to watch in 5, 10, probably even 15 years. But we only get one chance to see him before he turns to 20. I’d take it.

Stephen Strasburg

Yes, I’m still buying the Strasburg hype, even if it’s died down nationally because he missed most of last year with TJ surgery. But what hasn’t died down is Strasburg’s effectiveness. He is still striking out a batter per inning, and his WHIP is a ridiculous 0.842.

Also a bonus: just like if you pay to see Kemp on a day when Kershaw is pitching, you can get double the value for your money by catching a Nationals game when Strasburg is pitching.

And if the Dodgers ever face the Nationals with Kershaw and Strasburg both on the hill? Oh my. That right there folks is the most valuable baseball game possible in 2012.

*****

This list is not meant to be exhaustive. There are plenty of baseball players I’d enjoy paying money to see play.

A handful of others off the top of my head: Curtis Granderson; Paul Konerko (homer pick!); Alexei Ramirez (homer pick!); Adam Jones; Brett Lawrie; Albert Pujols; Ian Kinsler; Yu Darvish; Hanley Ramirez; Giancarlo Stanton; Mark Buehrle (semi-homer pick!); Aroldis Chapman; Ryan Braun; Andrew McCutchen; Buster Posey; Tulo and CarGo; Justin Upton, etc.

But none of those guys, for me anyway, compare to the seven guys above…especially Hamilton, who, for my money, delivers the most single-game value for your baseball buck.

What about you?

Who is the player or who are the players that you would pay the most to see play right now?

Comment below and let’s discuss.

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