Had Josh Hamilton been traded from the Los Angeles Angels to any other team in baseball he would have brought with him a certain amount of unwanted baggage. Instead, he showed up at Globe Life Park in Arlington with something else entirely to offer to the people of Dallas-Fort Worth: nostalgia. In the business of baseball, that’s more than a concept, it’s an asset.
The Texas Rangers’ 2015 season was beginning to look like another season of unrelenting mediocrity and in a sport of 162 games per year, what is mediocrity if not wholly uninteresting? It took the Rangers a full month to win their first series of the season. And then something clicked and the team started winning. Around the same time, Hamilton made a shocking return to the team via an April 28 trade. Determining a correlation between the two is irrelevant compared with the awakened baseball fandom in North Texas. It doesn’t have to be just like old times, it just has to feel like it.
Hamilton joined the Rangers May 25 after rehabbing from an injury, but what he returned to was a team amid a winning streak. Upon returning, Hamilton did his part, hitting two home runs in a May 29 victory over Boston and followed it up with a walk-off hit two days later. The Rangers were 12-4 in their last 16 games as of June 3 and are above .500 for the first time in nearly a year.
The return of Hamilton, who played in Texas from 2008-2012, brings to mind a better time for Ranger fans, back when Hamilton was the biggest redemption story in sports. Times when the upstart young Texas squad featured names like Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler and a guy named Ron Washington inspired his players with rah-rah speeches and loyalty. These were times when Jon Daniels could do no wrong as he worked in tandem with Nolan Ryan to turn the perennially underwhelming Rangers into back-to-back American League Champions.
The last few years have been much tougher for Ranger Nation. There was Hamilton’s exit and ensuing claim that Dallas-Fort Worth wasn’t a “baseball town.” There was the power struggle between Daniels and Ryan leading to the latter’s departure. Kinsler, Cruz and Washington are gone. More important, winning baseball has been absent for nearly three years.
Sometimes the moments that make for the greatest stories are followed by the toughest hangovers. The Rangers and their fans had their highs in 2010 and 2011 and they paid for it with a couple of brutal years’ worth of hangover. But then sometimes, after enough time has passed, you forget about the hangover and you reminisce about the good times. You get a couple of members of the old crew back together and all of a sudden it feels like just yesterday.
Nostalgia has a very special and important place in the sport of baseball. In some ways, it connects Americans to their history. The glories of past teams are romanticized as if Paul Revere himself went door to door breaking down the box score. Oddly enough, for North Texans it’s not about the days of Babe Ruth, or the Summer of ’49, or the reliability of Hank Aaron. Instead, it’s nostalgia for a time when the iPhone 3GS was the newest gadget on the market. And with the emergence of prospect Joey Gallo, whose buzz-worthy debut June 2 saw him go 3-4 with a homerun, perhaps the Rangers could simultaneously be a team of the future.
Whether or not they have the capabilities to exceed expectations like they did in 2010 isn’t all that important. By making us think back upon it, they’re already doing enough.
Hamilton goes on DL only 7 games into return with Rangers
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton was put on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, only seven games into his return to the majors.
The Rangers made the move before a series finale against the Chicago White Sox after saying the previous night Hamilton will be sidelined about four weeks because of a strained left hamstring.
Left-hander Ross Detwiler was activated from the disabled list.
Hamilton had a game-ending, two-run double as pinch-hitter Sunday, then missed two games with tightness before an MRI. He was hitting .273 with two home runs and five RBIs.
He second-guessed himself for aggravating a tight hamstring.
“Everything in me said, “You should probably wrap your leg,” he said. “And it’s like, no, I don’t need to wrap it. It will be good for one at-bat. It”s a lesson learned.”
“It’s frustrating more than anything. You do all the work to get back to this point I”ll be going every day to get right and get ready, so that when I come back I’ll be able to make that immediate impact.”
Detwiler was activated after an injury rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Frisco. He was 0-5 in seven starts before left shoulder inflammation. He will work out of the Rangers bullpen after being a reliever last season for Washington.
The roster moves left Texas with only three position players on its bench. Delino DeShields and Jake Smolinski could play left field while Hamilton is out.
Manager Jeff Banister said he does not expect Joey Gallo, a major leaguer for only three days, to shift from third base to left field.
“Joey could go play in the outfield, but I”d really like to just allow this young man to kind of settle in,” Banister said.
Outfielder-first baseman Kyle Blanks (surgery on a pilonidal cyst) could return from the disabled list as early as Sunday at Kansas City. He is accompanying the Rangers on their trip.
“Probably more like Tuesday, since we”re off on Monday,” Banister said. “The last thing we want to do is swing the bat, go run and try to bust it out of the box and stretch a double.”