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Josh Hamilton is back where he belongs

With the impending trade from the Angels to the Rangers all but done, Hamilton prepares to return home to the club best equipped to help him.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I have no idea what is best for Josh Hamilton. I don't know if he's a good guy. None of us do. That said, I am excited for him. He gets what all of us want most, and what we all deserve: to go somewhere where people want him.

Since news of his relapse leaked before the start of the regular season, Hamilton had been persona non grata in Anaheim. Already smarting from the injuries and poor production they've been through with Hamilton, the Angels brass acted like pouty middle schoolers.

First, someone with the club likely leaked the confidential news of his cocaine use, in violation of the Joint Drug Agreement. Then, they proceeded to ban Hamilton from their lunch table. They wouldn't allow him to train with the team, they publicly complained about his behavior, and they questioned the outcome of the arbitration process that found that MLB could not punish him (again, in violation of the JDA).

They claimed, against seemingly all reports to the contrary, that they had a secret clause in Hamilton's contract that would allow them to void the deal. And owner Arte Moreno suggested that he would find a way to prevent Hamilton from ever playing for Anaheim again.

Here's how the Hamilton trade happened

Congratulations to Arte Moreno, I guess. He managed to do it, sending Hamilton to the Rangers for nothing. All it took was agreeing to pay $68 million of the remaining $80.2 million he demanded his general manager, Jerry Dipoto, give to Hamilton to sign with the club two-and-a-half years ago. For roughly $112 million, Moreno got 240 games of .255/.316/.426 production, 31 homers, bad defense, and around three total wins above replacement.

Moreno and the Angels' freeze out (aka a "moral stand") against Hamilton's drug use stinks of petulant and self-serving buyer's remorse. It's especially inexcusable given that they went into their negotiations with the outfielder knowing his history of addiction and the potential for relapse. Or at least they should have. It's some consolation that, for their cynicism and negligence, the Angels are going to pay so much money to Hamilton for him not to play for them.

For roughly $112 million, Moreno got 240 games of .255/.316/.426 production, 31 homers, bad defense, and around three total wins above replacement.

In the aftermath, the Angels will continue to trot out Matthew Joyce (.132/.175/.189) and Colin Cowgill (.189/.231/.324), who must be winning some kind of award for least productive platoon, in left field. They may not come with Hamilton's personal baggage, but they also don't come with his even diminished talent, and nowhere near his upside if he returns to form.

Meanwhile, Texas will get an upgrade in left field for something like $7 million over two years once Hamilton is ready to come off the disabled list. The Rangers' left fielders, a combination of Jake Smolinski, Ryan Rua, Carlos Peguero, and Delino DeShields Jr, have hit just .172/.304/.276 on the year.  He is almost 34, injury prone, and not nearly the player he was when he last was in a Rangers uniform, but Hamilton makes them undeniably better. The Angels are still, by far, the better team, but with more bone-headed self-defeating decisions like this one (especially in handing over talent to division rivals), that gap will close.

Better still, the Rangers — both the players and the brass — are happy to have Hamilton back, not just as a teammate but as a person. They know him and they like him. Really, no team and no group of players is better equipped to help Hamilton and to support him through his reintroduction to baseball. It may take him some time to win back over any fans he alienated with some accurate, yet unnecessary comments about Dallas being a football town, but that will hopefully blow over when compared to the significance of Hamilton's recovery.

Nevertheless, it just seems like Hamilton is finally back in a position to succeed, and in a situation that is genuinely optimistic. I can't help but hope for good things for him going forward, and for the Rangers for taking on the risk and responsibility that the Angels should have, but wouldn't, for Hamilton's continued recovery.