This was originally published in The Athletic.
Billy Hamilton was always better as an idea than as an actual everyday component of a baseball team, which is true whenever the majority of a player’s run is spent discussing how he might be better used instead of his actual contributions.
The idea has been that Hamilton could be this revolutionary weapon, capable of providing his manager almost unprecedented flexibility. Billy and his legs could give his team enviable dimensions of versatility that would not only take run-scoring capabilities to the next level, but would further advance discussions of modern player usage, thus putting the Reds ahead of the pack in baseball’s race to be smartest.
In practice, though, Hamilton was – is, I guess – simply a speedy, smooth-fielding guy with almost no sustainable big-league hitting ability. The realities of Hamilton’s shortcomings with the bat are well-established after years of being miscast as a leadoff man, and after he’s accumulated thousands of plate appearances. Billy and the Reds have tried everything, including banishment to the ninth spot in the batting order. Despite everyone’s best efforts, it is abundantly clear that, on a good team at least, Hamilton is best used coming off the bench.
This is fine, of course. A guy can spend plenty of years and make plenty of money serving as a role player. There’s a place for a player that possesses both Hamilton’s wizardry on defense as well as his havoc-creating potential on the bases on a team that’s constructed well enough to absorb his ineptitude at the plate.
There’s just no place on a team that’s trying to dig out of five years of irrelevance for a sub making close to $7 million.
To read the entire piece, go to The Athletic.
(Photo: Getty Images)