The Rangers released Hamilton a few days ago, which probably represents the end of the line for the aging slugger after it was discovered that he'll need another knee surgery. It's definitely jumping the gun, but I've found myself comparing him to Thames, who's quickly becoming as feared as Hamilton once was.
Before I explain the similarities, be warned that this is just for fun. Small sample size alert and all that. Thames might have holes in his game that opponents will soon begin to exploit, whereas Hamilton won an MVP award and made five straight All-Star teams. Still, it's fun to compare their stories, and it feels appropriate to appreciate both guys right now.
Hamilton famously overcame drug and alcohol addiction to torture American League pitchers after joining the Rangers in 2008. Thames's tribulations were a bit different, but he couldn't cut it in his first stint in the majors. Instead, he headed to Baseball Siberia, a.k.a. Korea, and resurrected his value to MLB teams. At 30, he's a little older than Hamilton was when he had his breakout at 27, but let's hope we get to watch a similarly dominant mid-career stretch from Thames. I know it's a longshot, but we can wish upon a Zimmer.
That Sweet Swing
Thames's menacing left-handed swing, the ability to hit with incredible power to the opposite field, and even the elbow armor all channel visions of Hamilton. Hamilton's stance was a little more upright and closed, but the similarities still start there. Both players feature just a bit of a bat-wag in the lead-up to the pitcher's delivery but neither has much of a leg-kick. The GIFs below show Hamilton and Thames pulling homers:
|Hamilton (via sports.vice.com)|
|Thames (via mlb.com)|
Early Hot Streak
In '08, Hamilton cranked 14 home runs in April and May. This year, Thames has made himself the story of the young season by blasting 11 home runs in April to set a Brewers record with three games still left left in the month.* After this incredible opening act to the year, we better get a chance to see Thames try to pull a Hamilton at intermission, the Home Run Derby.
*Provided that Thames's hamstring issue in Wednesday's win over the Reds was in fact as minor as has been reported.
As has been well-reported, Korean fans referred to Thames as "God." Hamilton, meanwhile, flashed a style and prospect pedigree that earned him the moniker "The Natural." It was a little subtler but just as fitting.
Unfounded PED Accusations
Oh, people, they're a-whisperin'. In the interest of enjoying Thames, though, I'm gonna move on from making baseless accusations. Besides, the dude's already passed two drug tests.
Still, between Thames's pretty lefty swing and his sudden rise from baseball purgatory, it's hard not to make the comparison. Hamilton's recent injury gives us a chance to appreciate the terrific run he had, but also to shake our heads at how quickly it ended. Brewers fans would do well to remember that while they look on in wonder as they watch Eric Thames.
All stats are current through April 28.
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Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet