Nolan Ryan Wanted Josh Hamilton To Keep Chewing Tobacco

  • Dan Fogarty

Josh Hamilton had a tremendous first two months to start this season: 21 homers and 57 RBIs. But after winning AL Player of the Month honors in April and May, things took a dramatic decline: he hit .223 in June and .177 in July, and had eight homers and 27 RBIs combined in those two months.

Rangers president Nolan Ryan thinks it might have had something to do with his decision to quit chewing tobacco over the summer…

“His timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldn’t have been worse,” Ryan told Dallas radio program “Galloway and Company.” “You would’ve liked to have thought that if he was going to do that that he would’ve done it in the off-season or waited until this off-season 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, you’d have liked that he would’ve taken a different approach to that. So those issues caused unrest, and it’s unfortunate that it happened and the timing was such as it was.”

…Which it might have, but this is a pretty terrible time for Ryan to open his mouth.

Hamilton, of course, has a history with substance abuse, and in February, he had another very public relapse. He’s also had issues with drinking too much caffeine, and had to miss five games in September with blurred vision and balance issues that were attributed to a drying of the cornea, which was caused by too much of the stuff. So, with booze, drugs, and coffee off the table, Ryan thinks Hamilton should’ve weaned himself slower, and perhaps held onto at least one of his vices until after any sort of withdrawal would’ve have hurt his performance.

The place Ryan’s coming from, and the point he’s trying to make, isn’t necessarily crooked. Hamilton obviously wasn’t himself down the stretch, dropping a key fly ball last Wednesday in the division-deciding game with Oakland. That error turned a tie game into a 7-5 A’s lead, and the A’s won the AL West title. And Hamilton himself noted that his summer slump had to do with quitting tobacco, so Ryan isn’t exactly breaking new ground here.

It’s the timing, rather, that takes this from being your average stupid sports radio quote to your exceptionally stupid sports radio quote. Josh Hamilton is a free agent this offseason. Why would you divert from your very public support of his sobriety, and say, “You know what? You probably should’ve waited to quit tobacco, even though you pretty much staying away from anything that gives you a mild buzz is key to your recovery.”

With contract talks looming, you’ve gone on a radio show to sprinkle this tidy little bit of passive aggression on the proceedings. Why?