(When Josh Hamilton returned to the Rangers, I wrote this for WFAA.com on May 15, 2015)
With Josh Hamilton nearing a return to the Texas Rangers, Bryan Dolgin takes a look at why the trade to acquire Hamilton makes sense for the Rangers
The Josh Hamilton trade was the best marketing move of the season for the Texas Rangers, and it’s one of the best marketing moves in Major League Baseball this season. Pete Rose’s road to reinstatement with his new role at FOX Sports was a pretty good marketing move, but that’s a column for a different day. Back to Josh…
“Why trade for Josh Hamilton?” It’s a question that I’m commonly asked by friends, family, coworkers, Facebook friends, Twitter peeps, total strangers, etc. It’s a topic that comes up more than any other regarding the Texas Rangers these days.
Think about when the trade was completed and when the press conference took place on Monday, April 27. The Rangers were 7-11 en route to 7-12 after a loss that night against Seattle. I was sitting among season tickets holders and looking around at a lot of empty green seats at Globe Life Park that night. Fan conversations those days focused on the bullpen’s seemingly nightly implosions, Shin-Soo Choo looking lost at the plate, Elvis Andrus’ lackluster play through April, and the mythical “Nolan Ryan curse” was still being uttered.
So, why trade for Josh Hamilton? To everyone who asks, you are partially answering your own question. Josh creates conversation. Thus, the Rangers are on the minds of many across the Metroplex, Texas, and around the baseball landscape. On the day the trade took place, I didn’t think this was a baseball move. I also thought, and still think this way, that it was more of an ownership orchestrated trade than a strategic Jon Daniels decision–similar to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno signing Hamilton.
Furthermore, it was April when the deal was done. There’s an old adage in baseball that you can’t win the division in April, but you can lose it. At the time of the trade, the expectations of the team by many in and around the game didn’t have the Rangers selling playoff tickets this season.
Ray Davis, the managing partner of the Rangers, is known to be an owner who knows how every cent is spent in his organization. I’d imagine he also knows what people are not spending their money on these days: Rangers tickets which leads to more food and drinks sold at the games as well as more souvenirs bought. It’s all about the per capita for a pro sports exec.
At this juncture, Elvis is likely the most marketable player on the team as is. When everyone is healthy, Yu Darvish would have to be in that conversation. However, he won’t be on the mound for a while. Prince Fielder should get the fan’s love, but they hardly know him yet. These are not the most marketable days for the Rangers like the World Series run when you would see plenty of Young, Andrus, Kinsler, Napoli, and…Josh Hamilton shirts and jerseys in the Ballpark.
For Ray Davis, I’d have to imagine the move to trade for Josh Hamilton was 90% marketing and 10% a baseball decision. For the few dollars (relatively speaking, of course) it took to trade for him, think about how much money the Rangers will make when Josh makes his 2015 debut on some random day on the schedule (I bet at home – May 28). More hot dogs, bacon on a stick, beverages, etc. will be bought that day. The Rangers will probably sell more Hamilton gear that day than they did when he was considered the next Mickey Mantle back in 2011.
Think about youth of the Metroplex. Hamilton captivates the children. I took my daughters to Rangers opening day in 2013 against the Angels, his first game with the Halos. My oldest daughter was almost seven-years-old. When Josh was introduced, the “boos” rained down. My daughter turned to me, red-faced, pointed at me, and she emphatically declared, “I will not boo!”
My daughter is not the only one who feels this way. Countless children love the charismatic former MVP. Think about how many children have a T-shirt or jersey with his name on it.
Think about the past few weeks since the trade and the minor league assignments for Hamilton. The media coverage is exceptional, and it was expected. Sure, he has had some boos here and there, but mostly he’s been cheered.
Think about the 2015 Rangers. Who would you rather have? Hamilton or Carlos Peguero? Or Jake Smolinksi? Or Ryan Rua? No, you don’t have to answer the question. We all know the answer.
It really is the greatest marketing move of the year. Win or lose as a team, the Rangers stay relevant in baseball talk all season. He’s permanently etched into my, “I’d pay to see him play,” list of intriguing players. Regardless of how he plays, his name sells tickets which leads to more food and beverage bought at games which leads to more merchandise sold. The TV ratings will go up when he plays which will spur sponsorship sales. There’s no risk for Ray Davis and ownership. This is all reward.
As for baseball operations…what’s the risk for JD? None. What’s the reward? If Hamilton plays well, it could be a competitive late 2015 (when you include pitching parts returning). If he plays well and there’s a strong finish as a team for this year, dare I share that the good ol’ days of 2010-11 could return next season?
The return of Josh Hamilton is an outstanding marketing move, and it could be an exceptional baseball move. When he returns with the Rangers at the MLB level, I will not boo.