Josh: If they don’t think I care, they’re mistaken
Josh Hamilton made eight outs in five plate appearances on Tuesday, dropping his batting average to .213, and was showered by boos from his home fans. They were loud, too. Louder than when he was a visiting Rangers player, and louder than at any point during this nightmarish season – and he’s been booed a lot this season.
Asked about it Wednesday, prior to a game in which he was dropped from second to seventh in the batting order, Hamilton said: “I can’t blame them.”
But there’s a segment of the Angels fan base that doesn’t believe Hamilton cares enough – and that’s where he disagrees.
“I’m not going to break my bat or do stuff like that on the field because you have kids watching,” Hamilton said. “If they don’t think I care, then they’re mistaken, because it hurts me more than it hurts anybody not to be performing. I’ve done it for years against the Angels, and now I’m a part of the Angels and I want to do it for the Angels. I’m just going to keep doing the best I can.”
Hamilton’s best is nowhere near good enough yet. Mike Scioscia has given him four days off to clear his head. He’s moved him from fourth to fifth, from fifth to second and now, from second to seventh – a spot he hasn’t hit in since 2009. And Hamilton himself has tried reverting to the past, trying to summon the simpler approach from 2008-09 and the pregame routine from 2010.
Nothing has worked. Through his first 69 games with the Angels, Hamilton holds a .213/.269/.388 slash line, with 10 homers, 24 RBIs and a .657 OPS that ranks 113th among Major League qualifiers.
He’s been positive all year, picking out small victories within each plate appearance that he hopes can help him take steps forward.
But the longer the season goes on, the harder that becomes.
“When you’re struggling and you stay in that spot when you feel like you’ve done about anything you can to get out of it, the confidence starts to waver some,” Hamilton said. “Guys have been great, encouraging, things like that – coaching staff, everybody.”
Scioscia’s latest lineup change put Peter Bourjos back in the leadoff spot and dropped Mike Trout to second, where the Angels’ skipper prefers he hit. It came on a day an opposing lefty – Joe Saunders – was on the mound, but it sounds like Hamilton will also bat seventh against righties.
“I think it’s going to be good for him to not worry about hitting in the middle of the lineup – just go down there and play baseball for a little bit and find his stroke,” Scioscia said.
“There’s no doubt that there are confidence issues with every player, there’s always frustration that every player feels, and it’s very clear right now, that as this season has progressed, and it’s taken more and more time for Josh to get comfortable in the batter’s box, that we need to do something to alleviate a little pressure.”
Hamilton provided some positive signs on Monday, going 2-for-5 with a long two-run homer. But there have been a lot of those days, almost all of which have been followed up by another bad performance. The latest was three groundball double plays and two strikeouts.
One step forward, two steps back.
“That’s the baffling part,” Hamilton said. “In the past, it’s either clicked at some point or you get a couple bloop hits and you kind of start moving in that direction. It goes back to the biggest thing, which is just being confident. And it’s tough to do when you’re not being successful.”