|Josh Hamilton will get paid eventually, but will he get his money in Texas? (Getty Images)|
No doubt that Josh Hamilton is the most talented player in the game (no matter how good Matt Kemp looked in April).
No doubt that the Rangers have little choice but to pay up -- and pay up big -- to keep Hamilton away from free agency, and keep him in their lineup.
No doubt that if the Rangers don't pay up, someone else will, because where else are you going to find anyone who can do what Josh Hamilton just did?
"I don't know anyone with that kind of power -- and he's faster than me," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said in amazement Tuesday night, in the wake of Hamilton's four home runs in Texas' 10-3 win over the Orioles. "Too much talent for one guy."
Too much talent, and too many questions -- about his past, about the demons that always threaten to return, about the body that always threatens to break down.
|4 Homers in a game|
|The Rangers' Josh Hamilton becomes the 16th player, and only the sixth in AL history, to hit four home runs in a game on Tuesday at Baltimore.|
|Carlos Delgado||Blue Jays||9/25/03|
|Pat Seerey||White Sox||7/18/48|
How do give this guy the money his ability demands? How do you not?
On this night, there's no doubt. You do.
"I'm just so happy he's a Texas Ranger," Ron Washington said, on this night.
It wasn't just the four home runs, or the American League-record 18 total bases. It wasn't just that Hamilton's fifth-inning double was hit so well that it could have gone out of the park, too.
It was the way he did it.
The day Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds in the 2010 playoffs, I remember watching and thinking it would be a bigger shock if he gave up a hit than if he didn't.
That was Hamilton on Tuesday night. When he came up in the seventh inning and again in the eighth, you'd have been more shocked if he didn't homer than if he did. And, of course, he did.
He hit four home runs only because of a little top-spin on that double -- and because he didn't come to the plate again. He has five home runs and 10 RBI -- on just 10 swings -- over his last 10 innings.
Albert Pujols doesn't have 10 RBI this season -- and he got $240 million.
Albert Pujols, as good and as great a career as he has had, doesn't have Josh Hamilton's talent.
"He's the most talented player I've ever played with, and I played with Alex [Rodriguez] and Juan Gonzalez," Michael Young said. "He can do everything. Superstar talent."
On this night, everyone saw it.
Hamilton said that outside of playing in the World Series, this was the highlight of his career. Young said that after the fourth home run, he and Adrian Beltre looked at each other and simply said, "Holy [bleep]!"
Andrus said that before the fourth home run, he and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis were guessing which pitch Hamilton would hit out this time.
Orioles reliever Darren O'Day, who gave up the final homer, later lamented that it was "the worst pitch of my career."
|More on Hamilton|
On this night, it probably didn't matter.
"Anything in the strike zone to him was a mistake," Rangers outfielder David Murphy said.
Hamilton's history tells you he's capable of this. Hamilton's history tells you he's capable of disappointing you greatly, or going on the disabled list tomorrow.
The Reds traded him away five years ago because their doctors told them he wasn't worth the risk (turned out that was wrong, didn't it?). The Rangers have already decided they want to keep him beyond this year and this contract, but debate all the time about how many years of risk they can stomach in his next deal.
And Hamilton, who credits religion for aiding his continuing recovery from drug abuse, gives a religious answer when asked what happens next.
"God gives me peace," he said. "I want to be where He wants me to be. If that's Texas, I love it in Texas."
On nights like this, the Rangers absolutely love him too. Who wouldn't?
"That's the most incredible individual performance I've ever seen," said Young, who has played in nearly 1,700 major-league games.
"Write good stuff," Hamilton told us, as he finished his postgame press conference.
Back when I covered some woeful Tiger teams, there were nights when we comforted ourselves with the reminder that we had written better than they had played.
On this night, there's no way I wrote better than Josh Hamilton played.