Old School – A Tale of Two Hitters

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the winter of hope, it was the spring of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.

There is a king with a large pocketbook, on the throne of Arlington; there is a king with a large pocketbook, on the throne of Los Angeles.

It was the year of Our Lord two thousand and twelve. Spiritual revelations were conceded to Arlington at that favoured period, as at this. Mr. Hamilton had recently attained his eighteenth home run, of whom a prophetic private on the West Coast had heralded the sublime appearance by announcing that arrangements were made for the swallowing up of Oakland and Seattle.

Los Angeles, less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to play centerfield.

In Arlington, there was scarcely an amount of order and protection. Daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies, took place in the capital itself every night.

All these things, and a thousand like them, came to pass in and close upon the dear old year two thousand and twelve. Those two of the large pocketbooks, trod with stir enough, and carried their divine rights with a high hand. Thus did the year two thousand and twelve conduct their Greatnesses.

—End of Chapter 1

If you’re confused, I’m talking about the Angels and Rangers. And more specifically, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, who’s starts to the baseball season couldn’t be more polar opposite. (Here’s a link to the first chapter of A Tale of Two Cities if you need to make sense of what’s above)

“The Machine,” Albert Pujols, has been very un-machine-like. He’s hit just .212 with only three home runs and 18 RBIs.

Compare that to “The Natural,” Josh Hamilton, who’s hit 18 (1st in the AL) over the fence (four in one game) with a league-leading .379 average and league-leading 47 RBIs.

Pujols’ team is last in the AL West; Hamilton’s team is in first.

This year, Pujols signed a 10-year deal worth $240 million.

At the end of this year, Hamilton will be a free agent.

Pujols’ on-the-field struggles have been well-publicized, with Baseball Tonight and the MLB Network doing live updates every night on whether or not Pujols had hit his first home run for the Angels – five weeks into the season.

The Angels line-up has been in disarray all year long, and I think that has put more pressure on Pujols to live up to that monster contract. Vernon Wells is out for 8-10 weeks, Torii Hunter went home to deal with his son’s legal situation, and the guy with the best batting average on the team is a 20-year-old rookie, Mike Trout, who is batting .350 in 21 games. So protection in the lineup has certainly been an issue.

But I’m positive that Pujols has not yet lost it, and will continue to regain his form as one of the top hitters in baseball. Just last week, he hit two of his three home runs; he seems to be slowly coming around.

David Ortiz, who had a really slow start like Pujols in 2010, had this to say about his friend:

“Let me tell you, Albert is a great friend of mine and sometimes it’s good that [slumps] like that happen, so people understand that it’s not as easy as it looks,” Ortiz says. “Even the best players in the game struggle. He’ll be out of it. I know Pujols so much, and I know that he’s not taking anything for granted right now that things are really bad. He’s working hard. He’s trying his best. He’s trying not to show any emotion. He’s a good teammate and he’s not blaming nobody but himself about the way things are going right now. He’s taking it like a man. (ESPN Boston)

I’m also positive that Hamilton has a great chance in his chase for the Triple Crown (AVG, HRs, RBIs). First of all, his Rangers teammates make it hard to pitch around Hamilton. Beltre has eight HRs, Napoli has seven, and Michael Young and Nelson Cruz have driven in more than 20 runs.

Former teammate, and current Angels starting pitcher had this to say about Hamilton:


Secondly, he’s starting to lap the competition. He’s 12 RBIs ahead of Edwin Encarnacion, who’s second in the AL, and he’s up four home runs to Adam Jones (whose history shows he won’t keep that pace) and Adam Dunn (who’s coming off a career-worst season, batting under .200). His main homer competition should come from Curtis Granderson (13) and the AL’s home run champ the past two seasons, Jose Bautista (11). In the average department, some power hitters are close, like David Ortiz (.333) and Paul Konerko (.367), and a rookie is close, Mike Trout (.350). Hamilton’s best batting average foe could be the legendary Derek Jeter, who is batting .343 and has finished in the top three in average four times in his career.

“I’m not up there trying to hit home runs,” Hamilton said. “I’m trying to hit the ball hard, on the barrel. What we all battle as hitters — you don’t have to try to hit it a mile. The pitcher’s supplying the power.

“If you make solid contact, it might leave, it might go for a double or a single or whatever. I don’t get wrapped up in trying to do it.” (NY Times)

It’s just interesting to see two hitters, both with incredible Hall-of-Fame talent, both on teams with a lot of good players, and both are men of faith, who have been in the pages of Sports Spectrum many times. One is struggling, and one is prospering (personally, and collectively as a team).

Of course, the question that always pops up with Christians in sports is whether or not God cares about wins and losses, birdies and bogies, touchdowns and interceptions, home runs and strikeouts, or Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols and their on-field performance?

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20

Of course God cares. Whether you’re slumping, or hitting at a torrid pace. If His children are involved, He cares.

And then there’s this question: Does He have enough time to worry about sports in the first place?

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

He seems to have no problem finding enough time.

Plus there’s that other verse as well…

“For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Which at least happens every time the Rangers and Angels step on the field. Besides, aren’t there already angels in the outfield?