Forgive me, I know you have had to read a lot about Josh Hamilton over the last four days, but I think we need to do this one more time after news broke yesterday that he had rejected a trade to a National League team in favor of working out a deal with the Rangers.
How could Hamilton do that? Why, because he had a full no-trade clause, of course, freely given by the Angels with the blessing of owner Arte Moreno, who didn't mind abandoning any and all leverage he had to send Hamilton and his contract wherever he wanted back in 2012. What a businessman!
Obviously, some people are going to try to spin this as Hamilton not doing what was in the Angels' best interest. Another selfish player raking his benefactors over the coals just because he can. This, of course, is ludicrous, and not just because Hamilton will reportedly make less money in Texas than he would have for this mystery NL club.
Of course Hamilton isn't acting in the Angels' best interest. After all, they weren't acting in his from the moment he revealed that he had relapsed over the offseason. He has no obligation to the club that doesn't feel an obligation to him.
In general, no-trade clauses are handed out far too frequently around the game. Players crave security and teams crave the players. They are in a honeymoon phase with each other, where nothing has gone wrong and neither can imagine wanting to be without the other. It's sweet and naïve, and it's unimportant until...let's just pick a name at random...Ryan Howard, for instance stops hitting entirely and you are stuck with him.
Or, that player becomes less valuable because they demand to have their deal modified to give in on the clause. Cole Hamels, for instance, indicated he would waive his clause to go to the Red Sox, if they agreed to pick up the option at the end of it. That deal never materialized, of course.
But don't feel bad for the clubs. As we like to point out, baseball is a business. Look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was released by the Marlins immediately after being reinstated from paternity leave yesterday. Look at Xavier Cedeno, who has been traded twice in two weeks because he won't pass through waivers. These are seemingly cruel acts. Cedeno is trapped in a kind of limbo where he shouldn't even unpack his suitcase until he knows he's going to stay at his next stop.
Saltalamacchia should be celebrating and might just prefer to stay home with his family, but he will play ball wherever the Marlins wind up sending him. These players, as with a lot of players, have no leverage, no control over their futures except to keep playing hard. For this, obviously, Saltalamacchia and Cedeno are exceptionally well compensated reltative to the rest of us. Still, it's exceptionally difficult to be a rudderless boat, at the mercy of whatever current currently holds the rights to you.
Hamilton had leverage, earned through several excellent seasons with the Rangers. What's more, the Angels gave that away, not imagining a day would come when they would want to be rid of their left fielder. They ceded control, and no one should blame Hamilton for taking the opportunity they gave him to determine his own destiny. That's all any of us really wants.
Josh Hamilton doesn't have a responsibility to them; he has a responsibility to himself and his family to get better. And he had the means. Now he gets to play in a place he feels comfortable, closer to his family, with players who like him and will watch out for him. In a case this extreme, maybe it hurt the Angels, but it may have saved Hamilton's life.
Don't like it? Don't give out no-trade clauses.