Josh Hamilton had a gangbusters first two months of the season, and then, suddenly, fell off a cliff. His past drug and alcohol problems, combined with some cryptic statements about "disobedience to God," put everyone on high alert. But in August, he revealed that he was struggling with a demon less illicit, if no less difficult to shake: he had quit chewing tobacco.
Hamilton's contract season was disappointing (the Triple Crown, which he was leading after May, went to another guy with his own addiction), and the Rangers petered out in the one-game wild card playoff. Hamilton went 0-4 in that one, leaving the field to a chorus of boos.
Ranger president Nolan Ryan addressed Hamilton's struggles on his weekly radio show on ESPN Dallas, and more specifically, going off the chaw when he did.
"His timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldn't have been worse. You would've liked to have thought that if he was going to do that that he would've done it in the offseason or waited until this offseason to do it. So the drastic effect that it had on him and the year that he was having up to that point in time that he did quit, you'd have liked that he would've taken a different approach to that. So those issues caused unrest, and it's unfortunate that it happened and the timing was such as it was."
You can obviously have the debate over whether Hamilton's lukewarm numbers can be chalked up solely to his quitting, but that's something only he can answer. Instead we get into ethics! It's always fun to see baseball guys try to deal with, like, life and shit, so this one should be fun.
Side A: It's kind of dick for Ryan to insinuate that Hamilton's health and mental well-being should have taken a backseat to baseball. Tobacco is dangerous and terrible, and if Hamilton wanted to give quitting another try, he should receive unconditional support for it. Quitting isn't easy, and if he reached a point in his life where he decided now was the time—even if it was in the middle of the season—then more power to him, and everything else comes second.
Side B: Hamilton is paid lots of millions of dollars to do one thing: play baseball. He's expected to keep his body and mind in optimum shape in multiple ways, and one of those would be not doing anything to mess with his brain chemistry to the point where it affects his game. Yes, tobacco is bad, but waiting until November to quit would not have killed him.
And the answer is...Hey, what do you know? There is no right answer! Both sides make valid points, and the dilemma isn't of the simple yes/no variety. It's good that Hamilton tried to quit. It's bad that he couldn't hit. It's almost as if life isn't a metric that can be quantified. But, you know, why don't you baseball writers give it a shot anyway?