Texas OF Josh Hamilton is seeking a $12 million salary in 2011 ; his employers have submitted a figure of $8.7 million, with an arbitration hearing scheduled for Valentine’s Day.  Recalling a time in which Hamilton routinely ingested substances far more harmful than whipped cream and ginger ale, Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcatera raises the specter of the Rangers “trashing” the reigning AL MVP in order to save a few bucks.

An arbitration doesn’t just set the current player’s salary. It’s used as a baseline for later players with similar production and similar service time who head into the process themselves. If one team eases up on Josh Hamilton, other teams heading into arbitration with their Hamiltonian super stars will have a tougher hill to climb in order to prevail.  In a way, then, the integrity of the process requires that the parties fight their hardest case possible.

And it’s not hard to see how Hamilton’s history could, theoretically, be used against him.  Not on moral grounds, per se, but because his drug use took away from many important development years. Hamilton has had an injury history.  If the Rangers want to argue that that history gives them pause, could they not ” and should they not ” point to Hamilton’s abnormal development as a player as a potential reason for concern?  Could they not also point to his brief and highly-publicized relapse in 2009 as an added risk factor with respect to future playing time?  Another relapse and ” bam! ” he’s in rehab. I’m not saying that they should do that, just that they could.

Later in the piece, Calcaterra acknowledges that Hamilton’s career resurrection is part and parcel of his public appeal, and bringing his past troubles up in this context, “could make bringing the subject up worse for them than if they leave it alone.” Particularly if they’re hoping to lock up Hamilton for a longer pact in the near future. And with that in mind, one of the best ways the Rangers can respect the integrity of the process would be to come to some resolution with Hamilton before an arbitrator picks a side.