Is Josh Hamilton the best player in baseball?
Not only does Sports Illustrated's top-notch baseball writer Tom Verducci call the Rangers' Josh Hamilton the best player in baseball, he compares him to Mickey Mantle. Verducci writes:
The legend of Josh Hamilton, Texas Ranger, is growing on a nightly basis. There is nobody like him in baseball, and possibly nobody this good, this big, this fast and this unique -- a 6'4", 235-pound sledgehammer of a hitter who can run balls down in center field and fly around the bases and hit for such a high average -- since Mickey Mantle in his prime.
Hamilton leads the league in batting (.362), slugging (.634), hits (161) and total bases (282). The rest of the league is playing for second place in the MVP race. He has no contemporaries, especially when you consider that the Rangers, somewhat against their better judgment, have started him 26 times in center field.
How rare is that kind of skill set? The last three players to have batted .360 and slugged .600 while playing that much center field are none other than Mantle in 1957, Stan Musial in 1948 and Joe DiMaggio in 1939.
You can read Verducci's column on Hamilton by clicking here.
Of course, anytime Hamilton's name is mentioned in these parts, there are always grumblings of, "Oh, the Rays let him get away.'' But I'm still convinced the Rays did right by Hamilton by letting him go somewhere else. Hamilton needed a fresh start to escape all the demons of his past -- not just to become a successful baseball player, but to stay alive and healthy. After all he went through, did anyone predict he would this good as a major-leaguer? But everybody -- at least those with a heart -- has to be happy that he has turned out this good.