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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Improbable Hamilton story reaches another level


The story with the Josh Hamilton Story is, the comeback is never complete.

Sure, it's seemed complete on a number of occasions, maybe even again on Tuesday as he deservedly scooped up the AL MVP.

Before then. ...

Hamilton wins AL MVP

When he finally eluded the demons of his past following a four-year addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine, a harrowing odyssey that threatened his life and sabotaged his baseball career after he was chosen first overall by Tampa Bay in the 1999 draft?

When he made his way back from two drug-related suspensions in 2004 and unexpectedly played his way onto Cincinnati's 2007 roster?

When, in as emotional a few moments on Opening Day as you will find, the whip-smart Reds crowd gave him multiple standing ovations in that '07 opener?

Or maybe when he ascended to new heights in 2008, putting on a show in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game, the Last Big Event in old Yankee Stadium?

Happily, another year falls from the calendar, and Hamilton not only continues to outrun his demons, he's still climbing a few more rungs up the ladder and tacking on more "Whoa" moments.

"I'd say that there was a 99 percent chance that this would never happen," Hamilton said on a conference call shortly after learning that he easily outdistanced Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in the MVP voting. "I mean, honestly, I think a lot of people would agree with that.

"But there was a 100 percent chance that this would never happen if I tried to do it on my own. That's what's most important.

"The key I want to get across is that I couldn't do it on my own. With God, all things are possible."

You hear a lot in these over-dramatic days about players coming back from "the gutter" to reach surprising and unexpected heights.

Rarely is that as literal as it is with Hamilton.

"I do reflect [on where I’ve come from]," Hamilton said. "I think I'd lose sight of things if I didn't.

"If I didn't reflect, a little ego might start sinking in there. And that's one thing I don't want to happen.

"I think about those times, and how God brought me through that and has sustained me. And it's awesome. ... I think about where I am at this moment, and where I was."

Hamilton never has done things the conventional way. So here came another twist: He became the runaway winner of the AL MVP award despite spending most of September on ice.

And here's the thing: Despite the fact he missed most of the season's final month, Hamilton should be the runaway winner.

Crazy, yes. Most seasons, show me an MVP voter who casts his ballot for a guy who's gone for the final month, and I'll show you a voter who should be flipping burgers at Wendy's instead of deciding the MVP race. But as they say, every year is different, and this year, this is what works.

No offense to runner-up Cabrera, whose 126 RBI led the league and who is going to win one of these things one of these days. And thanks for playing, Robinson Cano [.319, 29 homers, 109 RBI, Gold Glove] and Jose Bautista [major-league-leading 54 homers].

Hamilton's numbers made September's washout irrelevant. (US Presswire)  
Hamilton's numbers made September's washout irrelevant. (US Presswire)  
Hamilton did his heavy lifting during the season's first five months. When he cracked those ribs on Sept. 4, running into a wall in Minnesota, he led the majors in total bases, hits and slugging percentage. His .378 batting average with runners in scoring position led the AL. And just as importantly, his Rangers were cruising in the AL West, leading Oakland by a full eight games.

Though he would not return to the lineup until Oct. 1, Hamilton still wound up leading the league in all the key percentages: batting average, slugging, OPS.

He was baseball's Secretariat: By Labor Day, he and the Rangers, who had saddled up on Hamilton's back, had badly outdistanced the field. The only thing left was the roses and accolades.

Unlikely? You'd have to say yes. Only five players since 1960 have won an MVP award while playing in 130 games or fewer [Hamilton checked in at 133]. Only one of those won while playing in as few as 15 games in September [in a non-strike season]: Pittsburgh's Dick Groat, in 1960.

Hamilton played in two September games.

But because he did what he did earlier, he and his Rangers played in 16 postseason games -- including five in the World Series.

"Hopefully, the MVP is somebody who excels at his position with the bat, but most of all, does things each night, whatever that may be, that will help his team win," Hamilton said. "I hope and think that I did that the majority of the season.

"Other than the rib cage injury at the end, it helped us get somewhere we've never been before as a Rangers organization."

For better or for worse, Hamilton has been in more of those places than maybe he can even remember in those days since Tampa Bay made him the No. 1 overall pick in 1999.

Great thing is, since grabbing hold of the majors for good in '07, he's exchanged the seedy back alleys for the kind of avenues you dream about as a kid.

Josh Hamilton, 2010 AL MVP.

Deserved? Heck, yes.

Inspirational? In more ways than you can imagine.


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