Rangers are next team dealing with aftermath of the disaster

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Rangers are next team dealing with aftermath of the disaster

As we all learned last year with the Red Sox, late-season collapse doesnt always bring out the best in people. In fact, you can be pretty much guarantee it will bring out the very worst.

In the aftermath of baseball disaster, youll see people lie, gossip, scapegoat and cram the entire world under a bus. Youll see them leak rumors about pill-popping and marital unrest. Youll see owners slip and fall on their yachts. Youll see Armageddon-like chaos that makes you question the shelf life of society. Like, holy crap, if a baseball team can make people this crazy, what happens when theres a real problem?

Then again, Bostons most definitely the extreme. And thats a massive understatement. Like saying that Olivia Munns cute, or Steve Jobs was bright. They say that everythings bigger in Texas, but even native-son Josh Beckett will admit that when it comes to celebrating baseball disaster nobody does it bigger than Boston. Im not sure thats something were proud of, but its something that we can never deny.

However, in 2012, the Red Sox werent quite good enough to collapse. Sure, they were just as pathetic in September, but falling from 15 games to 24 games back in the Wild Card doesnt leave the same sting as going from first place in the AL East to six straight weeks of everyone screaming about beer and fried chicken. So, with the Sox out of commission, the rights to this years biggest collapse were up for grabs

And the Texas Rangers not without some competition from the White Sox and Dodgers grabbed the torch.

Ron Washingtons crew came about as close as you can to going to wire-to-wire in the AL West this season. They led the division by 5.5 games on May 1, by 4.5 on June 1, by 5.5 on July 1, by four on August 1 and three games on September 1. But none of that matters as much as the fact that on September 24, the Rangers led the West by FIVE games with NINE to play. Thats a magic number of five.

They finished 2-7; the As finished 8-1.

With the division lost, Texas was relegated to the new-and-improved one-game-playoff, where they hosted Baltimore and were shut down by Joe Saunders. Just like that, the collapse was complete, the season was over commence total meltdown!

Or something like that.

Its no surprise that the good people of Texas have been slightly more laid back in the aftermath of their own disaster. Sure, people are angry. The fans want change! But in terms of honest to goodness scandal, the Rangers have been no match for the mighty Sox.

Although yesterday morning, things finally started to pick up, after Rangers president Nolan Ryan was asked a question (on ESPN Dallas radio) about Josh Hamilton.

As you know, Hamilton was the best player in baseball over the first two months of this season, before falling off a cliff. He hit .259 after the All-Star Break (while striking out once every 3.05 at bats) and was a major source of the Rangers struggles.

Hamilton has attributed the slump (at least in some part) to a side effect of trying to kick an addiction to smokeless tobacco. "Professionally, it's been plate discipline," he said in August. "Personally, it's been being obedient to the Lord in quitting chewing tobacco."

Anyway, heres Ryan:

(Hamiltons) timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldnt have been worse. You wouldve liked to have thought that if he was going to do that that he wouldve 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, youd have liked that he wouldve taken a different approach to that. So those issues caused unrest, and its unfortunate that it happened and the timing was such as it was.

As you can imagine, the medias reaction to Ryans comments has been predictably scathing. Hes been accused of being insensitive, of caring more about wins and loss than a players well being, of not understanding the consequences of tobacco use and of undermining Major League Baseball initiative to remove dipping from the game altogether.

My take?

First, as someone who recently quit "dip" after more than 10 years in the game, let me just say that I 100 percent believe that quitting had a negative effect on Hamiltons performance. I was a wreck after I quit, especially when I was forced to do something that I previously associated with dipping. Driving, writing, playing golf. It was impossible without a dip in my mouth. It's all I could think about. And I'm sure that Hamilton had this kind of connection with dip and baseball. It definitely affected him. Every time he jogged to the outfield, and every time he stepped in the batter's box.

And for that reason, I understand why Ryan's pissed. After all, this is more than just a game. This is a business. When the Rangers fall short like they did this year, people lose jobs; players get traded and entire families get uprooted; a ton of money goes by the wayside. And when your former MVP and third-highest paid player suddenly falls apart because he can't wait two months to quit dipping or worse, didn't quit a few months earlier you have every right to be angry. Especially when, morality aside, most players in Hamilton's position would have held off on the tobacco rehab in favor of stepping it up down the stretch. Right or wrong, they just would have.

But here's where we remember what, in the heat of this Rangers collapse, Nolan Ryan most definitely forgot Josh Hamilton is not most players.

I know we live in a world when no one is supposed to be considered different, but Hamilton is different. He's experienced things that 99 of the league couldn't fathom. He looks at things and deals with issues in a very particular way. After Ryan's comments, most criticisms were directed toward his perceived ignorance about the long term effects of tobacco use, and that's fine. But if you ask me, I'd guess that Hamilton's devotion to overcoming his addiction had very little to do with cancer. I mean, I'm sure it played a role, but with Hamilton it's about more than that. It's about keeping clean, and basically, staying alive.

And that's where Ryan missed. Hamilton's been so spectacular since making it to the big leagues, that I think it's sometimes easier to forget everything he went through before that. What a ridiculous struggle it must be to keep himself falling back into that hole. That Josh Hamilton is great story, but the story isn't over.

And it will be interesting to see what happens next for Hamilton. With the way last season ended, it's seems unlikely that he'll re-sign in Texas. That makes him 31-years-old, and coming off a three season stretch where he's averaged 33 homers and 107 RBI a year. This is when former MVPs like him make a killing. But honestly, who's ready to break the bank on Josh Hamilton?

I think we can rule out the Red Sox.

After all, while the Rangers may have claimed the 2012 award for "Baseball's biggest collapse," the Sox are still reeling from their 2011 title. They need to invest in a high-priced risk like I need to start dipping again; this is no time for them to take chances. But someone out there will. Whether it's in Chicago, Atlanta, Milwaukee or wherever, Hamilton will get another chance in another city, and keep fighting to ensure that this story has a happy ending.

And regardless of where he's playing, we all hope it does.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''