Josh Hamilton is baseball's ultimate what if.
To watch him face the Tampa Bay Rays on national television, as he did this weekend, is to wonder how his career and the fortunes of the team that drafted him might have differed. Josh Hamilton was once Bryce Harper, the sweet-swinging, power-hitting outfielder chosen No. 1 overall and destined to turn around a sluggish franchise.
To look at Hamilton's career stats is to wonder what they might be had he never been a drug and alcohol addict. Would he be a sure Hall of Famer had he been clean and broken into the big leagues a few years after being drafted in 1999 rather than with the Reds in 2007? Hamilton was 26 in his first real MLB season. Harper is 19.
Even now, at age 30 and a fixture in the Texas Rangers' lineup, there are what ifs about Hamilton: What if he gets hurt again? What if he falls off the wagon again? Those are legitimate questions and always will be.
But now there's another what if – a far more pleasant one to consider: What if it all comes together for Hamilton? How good can he be?