Just another night in the life of the best player in baseball went something like this, at least as far as last Friday the 13th:
• Smash four hits all over the park: a single to left, a 440-foot bomb to center, a single and double to right.
• Score from third base on a pop fly to deep shortstop/short left.
• Score from second base on a ground ball to second.
• Make a diving catch on the warning track and a leaping catch against the centerfield wall.
• Cause the third-base coach to halt a runner from scoring from second on an otherwise routine run-scoring single to centerfield.
• Crush the postgame spread.
• Throw around hundreds of pounds of iron in a postgame weightlifting session.
• Gulp down a 2,000-plus-calorie protein shake, made with real cream, on the car ride home.
• Sit down for a full home-cooked meal by his wife. (Yes, for those of you scoring at home, that's the equivalent of three full meals just between the last out and bedtime.)
The legend of
Hamilton leads the league in batting (.362), slugging (.634), hits (161) and total bases (282). The rest of the league is playing for second place in the MVP race. He has no contemporaries, especially when you consider that the Rangers, somewhat against their better judgment, have started him 26 times in center field.
How rare is that kind of skill set? The last three players to have batted .360 and slugged .600 while playing that much center field are none other than Mantle in 1957,
Now, are there any more questions about who is the best player in baseball this year?
"He's certainly in the discussion," Texas GM
In 65 games since June 1, just when the Texas heat is supposed to wilt players, Hamilton has hit .423. He also sets himself apart from other great sluggers because he is one of the game's best base runners and can play Gold Glove-caliber defense in the middle of the field. He has made 14 of his past 24 starts in center field.
Baseball doesn't have official player rankings as does golf and tennis, though its No. 1 player typically has caused little debate -- from
The game last Friday against Boston belongs in a time capsule, so that when somebody who never saw him play wonders what Hamilton could do on a baseball field, just that one game will suffice.
"There aren't many days when Josh goes 0-for-4," Daniels said, "but if it does happen there are so many other ways he can help us win a game. Josh can influence the outcome of a game with his bat and glove.
"And when he goes from first to third, he's able to turn it on with his head up and without breaking stride and can see the ball or the coach. I was fortunate to see
Walker and Bonds are the only outfielders in the past 50 years to hit .360 with 30 homers -- measurements within Hamilton's grasp. The men to do it before them were Mantle, Musial, DiMaggio and
Hamilton is nothing more than a breathtaking comet for the moment. He has no real career to speak of and no certainty to his future. He threw away his early years in baseball because of drug addiction, endured an alcohol-related relapse last year, and his years trying to remain clean have been marred by injuries. He has played fewer major league games than
New Rangers owner
Just for argument's sake, you could draw a faint comparison to
Hamilton will have bigger numbers and more awards on which to bargain. He will lack the bigger body of work. The Rangers briefly discussed a contract extension with Hamilton in spring training of 2009, shortly after Youkilis signed, but the club hit a financial downward spiral that eventually led to bankruptcy and Hamilton played only 89 games while spending two stints on the disabled list. Both developments put extension talks off to the side.
Greenberg inherits many financial loose ends in addition to a possible Hamilton extension. The contracts of manager
"Let's not cloud the picture right now," Daniels said.
In the meantime, the Rangers will do the best they can to keep Hamilton healthy, which is why they need center fielder
"It's hard to take Josh out of the lineup," Daniels said.
Who knows how long Hamilton can keep up this pace? He already has dealt with tendinitis in his right knee this month. But for now, the sight of a guy built like an NFL strong safety crashing into walls, blasting long home runs, flying around the bases, and chasing a batting title with a 22-point lead on