The Business of American Sports is Business

A couple of days ago, the great Josh Hamilton became the 16th player to hit four home runs in the same game. He also hit a double, for 18 total bases, the second most of all time. If you haven’t seen the highlights yet, you can see them here:

Because we live in a free-market, capitalist society, the historical nature of this athletic feat, as well as the raw talent that wrought it, were quickly shoved aside in the media by the question of what this would do for Hamilton’s long-term contract prospects. After all, if Hamilton is hitting like Pujols, shouldn’t Hamilton get a contract like the one Pujols received?

Local sports-talk radio in Dallas this morning was spewing outrage over an interview that Josh Hamilton gave to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci. Basically, when Verducci asked if Hamilton felt like he should come back to Texas with a new contract after this year, Hamilton said that, because of the foundation of his faith and his basic preparation, he could play anywhere. He acknowledged the depth of the support the Rangers have shown him, and said that it is “appreciated on both ends.”

According to the Gentle Musers on KTCK-1310 AM in Dallas, Josh apparently owes much more to the Rangers. He should give them a “hometown discount” to resign with them, because of the way that they have supported him since he came to the team. They have paid for an accountability partner to shadow him and to keep him out of trouble, which apparently has benefited the team, because since he came to Texas, Hamilton has only gone drinking twice. None of the illegal drugs that waylaid Hamilton during his years with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have resurfaced.

As Onlooker Slowdown previously noted, Josh Hamilton will always fight the demons of addiction. So far, thanks to his faith and dedication, he has done fairly well. The Rangers have helped him a lot.

But he does not owe them a “hometown discount.” After all, if Hamilton’s back suddenly gave out, or if he tore an ACL, or his timing went away, the Rangers would no doubt become less forgiving. As long as he is a star, he is worth the extra effort and expense — on the bottom line. As Hamilton keeps hitting, fans will keep showing up to games, buying beer and hot dogs, paying for Josh Hamilton T shirts, and contributing to the bottom line.

Do you think that bullpen nightmare Mark Lowe, or last year’s castaways like Arthur Rhodes and Esteban German, would have gotten the same level of grace — and support — that Hamilton has received? Not a chance.

Hamilton knows this. That’s why he’s preparing himself for life as, say, a Yankee. Or a Diamondback. Or even an Angel. Just in case the Rangers no longer see him as a business asset with a value that matches the way that he views himself.

More importantly, he is preparing himself for life as a well-balanced individual, buoyed by his faith and discipline to be the same person everywhere. Which is all of any of us should strive to be.

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