It came about two weeks later than expected, but Major League Baseball has finally given Josh Hamilton permission to play baseball. Earlier this month Hamilton was given permission to participate in extended spring training. The next obvious step was to reinstate Hamilton and allow him to report to one of the low-level minor league teams. The wording of this reinstatement sounds like the league hasn’t fully reinstated Hamilton. He will be allowed to participate in minor league games. If and when Josh is ever ready to play for the Devil Rays may still require the permission of Major League Baseball. That may even include any participation with the big league club in Spring Training next season. At 25, Josh is four seasons removed from his last official baseball game and has only played 23 games above single-A. Needless to say we are skeptical, at best, of ever seeing Hamilton play for the Devil Rays in the Trop, but we wouldn’t put it past a kid who many have labeled as the best prospect they ever saw. To date, there have been two overall #1 picks that never made the major leagues (Brien Taylor, 1991 by the Yankees and Steve Chilcutt, 1966 by the Mets). Josh Hamilton (and to a lesser extent Matt Bush, 2004 by the Padres) is in real danger of joining that infamous list. If he is going to avoid that dubious distinction, he needs to come out swinging and show everybody why the Devil Rays gave him a $4 million bonus out of high school and why the team continues to stick by their former phenom. And he needs to do it soon, real soon.
Hamilton will begin his comeback with the short-season single-A Husdon Valley Renegades on Monday night against the Brooklyn Cyclones.
So what is the final chapter in the Josh Hamilton story going to look like? Will it look like Brien Taylor? Or will it look like Roy Hobbs? Here is hoping that reality can be stranger than fiction.