Struggling Josh Hamilton greeted by unsportsmanlike display from Rangers fans, adds fuel to fire

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Josh Hamilton is currently batting .138 with three RBIs through six games with the underachieving 2-4 Angels. He has four hits and 11 strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Rangers (6-2) are in first place in the AL West and aren’t showing much decline from the team that has made the playoffs for three consecutive years, despite losing their star player and face of the franchise. After signing a $125 million contract with Los Angeles in December, Hamilton can expect to be criticized for a sluggish start.

Albert Pujols can attest to how much pressure signing a shiny, new contract can put on you, especially in a market like Los Angeles. This past weekend, Rangers fans greeted Hamilton with a chorus of boos every time he stepped to the plate in his first game at the Ballpark in Arlington with his new team. It didn’t stop there. On Friday night, Katie Hamilton, Josh Hamilton’s wife, says she was forced to call stadium security because of fan abuse during the Rangers home opener.

According to Hamilton, “They were saying personal stuff, stuff that was inappropriate with kids around.” Handmade signs taking personal jags at Hamilton, such as “Go home Hamilton, you’re drunk” were seen across the stadium. I saw another that read, “I am a true baseball fan and I get it and I burned my Hamilton jersey,” with a picture of a sapphire No. 32 jersey in flames. Many other Ranger fans chose to cover their faces with newspapers during Hamilton’s at-bats.

I understand that there are going to be many fans that feel as if Hamilton betrayed the Rangers franchise by not re-signing with them and following the cash instead. However, my initial thought was that the way in which Rangers fans conducted themselves this weekend was embarrassing. The situation reminded me of what occurred in Cleveland when LeBron chose to “take his talents to South Beach.”

I remember the initial burning of the No. 23 jerseys in Cleveland and the boos he received during his return trips to Cleveland as a member of the Heat. However, I don’t remember it getting as bad as it did this weekend for Hamilton and his family. Then, after reading more about the buildup to this weekend’s series, I was made aware of the comment Hamilton made in February, calling the Dallas/Fort Worth area “spoiled” and “not a true baseball town.”

This make it easier to see why short-fused Rangers fans, already angered by Hamilton’s move to LA, reacted the way they did. Though, I still don’t see their behavior as justified in any way. I believe Hamilton made these comments in regards to the fact that he was getting boos at the end of last year’s Wild Card loss to the Orioles, while still a member of the Rangers.

In addition, Joe Nathan, from his perch in the Ranger bullpen, kept a steady eye on the situation between Hamilton and Rangers fans, especially when Hamilton went out to play right field.

“I think him being more vocal than he should have been may have created more hype and more hostility,” Nathan told Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on MLB Radio Network. “He egged them on a little, playing with them…I hope it’s not like this every time he comes into town.” There were other reports that spoke of Hamilton making inappropriate gestures to Rangers fans while in the outfield, but Hamilton rejected these claims, stating he was making a ”football sign” instead. So there.

In the defense of Rangers fans, Hamilton certainly didn’t handle his homecoming as gracefully as he could’ve, but I still feel that it still doesn’t create an excuse for Rangers fans to continue their classless behavior every time the Angels come to town.