Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 5/22/12

Everyone including yours truly is on the Josh Hamilton bandwagon.

What baseball fan wouldn’t be?

Hamilton may have his sights set on a huge pay day, but he can earn plenty of money and become even more of an inspiration if he stays in Texas for less. (Urban Christian News)

“The Great Hambino”

After a ‘pedestrian’ 3-for-11 effort at the plate in Houston over the weekend, Hamilton is batting .389 with a slugging percentage of .785, has driven in 47 runs and hit 18 homers.

During a recent 16-game hit streak that ended last Thursday, he showed his ability to electrify his team and baseball fans everywhere by going 25-for-59 with 10 home runs, including four in one game.

In 2010 he won the AL batting title, AL MVP, and ALCS MVP. In 2008 he won the 2008 Home Run Derby, at least to anyone with eyes to see it, even when Justin Morneau emerged as the ‘official’ winner. Though he lost 5-3 in the final round to Morneau, Hamilton out-homered him 35-22 and set a record with a ridiculous 28 in the opening round.

But more than that, he is beating his much-publicized battle with alcohol and drugs, which was a catalyst in derailing his career after being selected by Tampa Bay as the first pick overall in the 1999 draft.

Yes, Josh Hamilton wins even when he loses. That’s what makes him human. That’s what makes people root for him. He’s just like us in that regard.

It also makes him susceptible to revisionist history if he even so much as hints that he has forgotten where he’s come from.

Which is why his latest comments regarding his future as a Major League baseball player befuddle me.

Hamilton should leave God out of contract talks

A few days ago Hamilton, who is quick to mention God in any interview, said he continues to pray about his upcoming free agency and what team he will be playing for next year. He claims not to know whether God will have him stay where it’s “comfortable” in Texas or go to another team that might be more “uncomfortable.”

“I want to do His will more than mine, so I don’t necessarily want to do what’s comfortable for me or my family,” Hamilton said. “If he has us leave and go somewhere else, it might not be comfortable, but you know what? That’s going to draw me closer to Him and have a better relationship with Him. . . . It’s not about where I want to be. It’s about where He wants me to be.”

Ugh, Josh.

Like those football commentators say on ESPN, Come on, Man.

It is this false piety that drives me and I suspect many people nuts when it comes to professional athletes who wear God on their sleeves. It is not the “God” part that bothers me or makes me question Hamilton’s sincerity; it is this outward attempt at humility when there is a big fat elephant in the room right there next to him.

Hamilton is using God and his will as a mask to hide what this is really all about:

$$$$$$$$.

Said Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan: “We haven’t carried on negotiations in the season because we don’t feel like it’s fair to Josh and we don’t want to do something that would be a distraction. We certainly are in hopes that we’re able to work a deal out with him, but I think they (Hamilton and his agent) probably have the mindset that they’ll go through the season and see what happens and see what the market is for Josh Hamilton.”

The market for Josh Hamilton. That’s rich, pardon the pun.

Actually it is the market for a baseball player who is probably the best on the planet. That’s it. Period. Nothing to do with the man himself.

And it is the man that Josh Hamilton is, dubious past and all, that he must remember when the off-season rolls around and it’s time to sign on the dotted line.

Sign with Texas, Josh. Even if it’s for less money. Even if it’s for a lot less money.

Josh Hamilton greets his teammates in the dugout after his fourth home run of the game at Baltimore. (Patrick Smith/Reuters)

Hamilton’s decision should be about much more than money

I understand the argument that focuses on the business of professional sports.

I understand that when Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, and Albert Pujols just signed $200 million-plus contracts last off-season, it is only fair that Hamilton, who is better than all of them right now, earns as much if not more.

I also understand that if the roles were reversed, if Hamilton had two or three bad years in a row, that the Rangers would not be inclined to keep him around and his career would be in jeopardy.

I understand all of that and it still doesn’t matter in this situation.

First of all, Hamilton already has more money than the average person could even dream of having.

And second of all, Hamilton has an opportunity to show the baseball world and his God how truly grateful he is that he is here in the Major League limelight and not in the dungeon of despair and drug use.

I want to talk to Josh Hamilton. Maybe that’s the teacher and coach in me. Maybe it’s the Christian in me. Because it’s people like Josh Hamilton that give a bad name to the Christian faith and give a completely wrong impression of who we believe God really is.

See Josh, when you separate your will and God’s will, you are only putting up a front, albeit a typical one of the everyday super-Christian, because the truth is that your God resides inside you and any decision you make that brings peace to you and the people around you is the right one.

And guess what? There are several ‘right’ choices because your God can make any choice the right one in all His greatness. I would think you would understand that, since you use His name in every interview you give.

True Christian humility would be to publicly say that you are a Texas Ranger for life, given the fact that this organization is the one that your God gave to you to not only make a career for yourself, but to save your life from the cusp of personal disaster.

Dare to be different, Josh, since this organization chose to be different in giving you a hundredth chance at a multi-million-dollar making career, and tell the baseball world that you would work for half of your ‘market value’ just to be able to give back to an organization and a fan base that has forgiven you so much.

Throw a symbol out there to give authenticity to your thank you to everyone who roots for you in spite of your past.

What would half be, a cool $100 million?

Ah, if true Christian humility could bring the average Christian so much material wealth.

Hamilton should pay special attention to Pujols

While I admit that Hamilton is probably falling prey to the false humility and a sort of reverse addiction (of being spiritual) that so many other Christians fall prey to, especially while trying so hard to overcome addiction, I cannot excuse him for considering leaving the Rangers after witnessing point-blank what superstar Albert Pujols has gone through in Anaheim.

While Fielder and Votto are having good if not great ($100 million if not $200 million) seasons so far, Pujols is off to a much-publicized horrendous start, hitting only .211 with three homers and 18 RBI. Angels’ fans are booing him and the team is in last place, eight games back of Hamilton’s Rangers in the AL West.

After signing the mega-deal that includes a ton of perks I don’t have the space to mention here, Pujols took exception to a billboard the Angels organization was using in their marketing campaign back in February. Then after an 0-for-4 night at the plate two Fridays ago in Texas, Pujols got chippy with the media.

“Come on, man, there’s still a lot of games left,” he said after the game. “You’re trying to create or write something negative like everybody else has already. It’s just one game. We just need to come back tomorrow and put ourselves in a situation to try and win the series on Sunday.”

Another very large elephant moment. It wasn’t just one game. It was a trend. The media and fans alike have 240 million reasons to remind Pujols of that.

Right or wrong from a moral standpoint, the attacks on Pujols are rooted in the Los Angeles fans’ expectations of Pujols based on the money. The superstar, who spurned St. Louis after spending his first 11 seasons there, apparently mistook the $40 extra million the Angels offered him as a symbol of their love for him.

When all it was was a simple trade-off. We’ll pay you. But you better produce. And you had better produce huge.

Or we’ll turn on you in a millisecond.

Albert Pujols has yet to hit in Los Angeles like he did in St. Louis. (CBS Sportsline)

The evil you can’t see

So Josh, a huge contract, even a historical one, won’t be indicative of their genuine love for you. It will only heighten expectations on a human being who doesn’t need to bring more opportunities for despair into his life.

This is the pressure awaiting you if you choose to sign a mega-deal with another team. That is the evil you are tempting into your life, an evil far more sinister than the ones presented in a bar room at midnight. That evil you can see. This evil you can’t, and you don’t want that, not when the possibility of collapse could destroy everything you’ve tried to be in recent years.

Add to that the sweeping disdain Christians across the country will have for you after you say it was “God’s will” that you go to another team and rake in $260 million, and you’ll find yourself not being able to go 1-for-8 in the first two games of a series and escape public scrutiny.

They’ll rip you apart. They’ll start noticing your tattoos and everything else they can concoct about you.

This hero status you now have? This inspiration you’ve been to many people in overcoming yourself? It would all go down the tubes. People everywhere would revise everything they thought about you and see you through the lens of the old self-centered Josh, not the new Josh that overcame all the odds.

People in everyday life do it all the time in order to cope when they feel betrayed, and it would be no different with baseball fans.

It doesn’t make it right. It just makes it real.

I’m not saying you won’t do well with another team. But think about it. The crazy stuff you’re doing on the field this year simply isn’t sustainable. The law of average says so. Only your current team and fans will understand that, because by then you will have shown your loyalty by taking less money to stay.

Go to any other city and I promise you’ll have to live up to this astronomical year or close to it to meet people’s expectations. And that might sound ridiculous to you, but remember people are people. They might know it’s ridiculous, but they’ll use every one of those 260 million reasons and the fact that they can’t catch even a sniff of the breaks you’ve had in life to justify it.

I agree totally, my man: do God’s will. I pray to do it every day myself. But just don’t try to fool those of us who haven’t had the chances you have that you have a special license to God’s voice when really the only thing talking if you leave Texas is the money.

Now I’ll completely contradict myself and say that I would do cartwheels if you decided to sign with my Atlanta Braves in the off-season. Hell, it’s not my money.

Sorry, Josh, I’m a Christian and sometimes I need to remind myself of my own hypocrisy.

*****

Jeff LeJeune writes on a broad spectrum of topics, from spirituality to sports to synchronicity and synergy, while finally learning to smile a little more at it all. Visit JeffLeJeune.com and follow on Twitter @JeffLeJeune.

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