Josh Hamilton’s baseball comeback has a new chapter. The Texas Rangers’ outfielder was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
Hamilton, who was the first pick in the 1999 amateur draft yet didn’t reach the major leagues until 2007 because of drug and alcohol addiction, won his first MVP award even after missing almost all of September with injured ribs.
“It’s just awesome to think about where I am at this moment and where I was,” Hamilton, 29, said during a media conference call. “I would have said there was a 99 percent chance this would never happen.”
Hamilton received 22 of 28 first-place votes for a total of 358 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, easily outdistancing the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, who got five first-place votes and 262 points. New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano finished third with 229 points, followed by the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista (one first-place vote, 165 points) and the Chicago White Sox’s Paul Konerko (130 points).
“It’s an absolutely great honor,” Hamilton said. “There are a lot of players in the league and to get this award just speaks volumes.”
Players received 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third, on down to one for 10th in the balloting that was completed before Major League Baseball’s postseason.
Hamilton, who had 32 home runs and 100 runs batted in, won the AL batting title with a .359 average. He also led the league with a 1.044 on-base plus slugging, or OPS, a statistic that measures a batter’s ability to get on base and hit for power.
World Series Loss
The result for the Rangers was a 90-72 record and their first playoff berth since 1999. The team won the AL West Division by nine games over the Oakland Athletics.
Hamilton missed almost the entire final month of the season. He fractured his ribs Sept. 4 when he ran into the center-field wall while fielding a fly ball off the bat of the Minnesota Twins’ Delmon Young. Hamilton returned Oct. 1 for the Rangers’ final regular-season series.
Texas went on to win its first playoff series in history before losing the World Series in five games to the San Francisco Giants. Hamilton said the team’s success is what he’ll remember most from this season.
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had with a group of guys playing toward that one common purpose and goal,” he said. “That’s rare on the professional level. You say you want to do it, but to have that right mix of guys, that’s very rare.”
Hamilton was the first pick of the 1999 amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, then was slowed by injuries and a car accident before the 2001 season.
His focus eventually became a life of drug use, leading to several suspensions and his eventual departure from baseball between 2004 and 2006.
Tampa cut ties with him in 2006, leaving Hamilton, who said he got sober in 2005, exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He was taken by the Chicago Cubs and later that day moved to the Cincinnati Reds.
He made his major-league debut in 2007, batting .292 with 19 homers and 47 RBI in 90 games before being traded to Texas the following offseason. Hamilton has been an All-Star three straight seasons with the Rangers, despite having a brief setback with alcohol in January 2009.
When the Rangers clinched their division title and two playoff series en route to their first World Series appearance, the team celebrated with ginger ale instead of the traditional champagne, in support of Hamilton’s sobriety.
He’s the fifth Ranger to win the award, joining Alex Rodriguez (2003), Ivan Rodriguez (1999), Juan Gonzalez (1998, 1996), and Jeff Burroughs (1974). He’s the sixth centerfielder to win the AL honor, following Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Fred Lynn, Robin Yount and Ken Griffey Jr.
“I feel like what the MVP is -- and that’s not taking away from anything the other guys did -- is you want to help your team win any way possible every single night,” Hamilton said. “When I was playing this year, I really feel like I did those things.”
Cano, who won a Gold Glove as the AL’s best defensive second baseman, batted .319 with 29 home runs and 109 RBI for the Yankees. His batting average after the All-Star break dipped to .299 from .336.
Cabrera, Bautista and Konerko may have been hurt by their teams’ failures to figure in the playoff races.
Bautista, who played mostly outfield, led the major leagues with 54 home runs, 15 more than AL runner-up Konerko. The total more than tripled Bautista’s previous high in homers of 16, set in 2006. He also had 124 RBI and a batting average of .260 for the Blue Jays, who were 85-77, finishing 11 games back in the AL East.
Konerko, a 34-year-old first baseman, had 111 RBI and a .312 batting average for the White Sox, who went 88-74 to finish six games behind the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.
Cabrera’s Tigers went 81-81, finishing 13 games back in the AL Central. His .328 batting average and 38 homers were third in the AL, and he led the league with 126 RBI and a .420 on-base percentage.
Cincinnati Reds first-baseman Joey Votto was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player yesterday.