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Nolan Ryan says Josh Hamilton picked the wrong time to stop dipping

Oct 10, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT

Lloyd Bridges

Nolan Ryan spoke with ESPN Dallas about Josh Hamilton‘s late season struggles.  Ryan beat back the notion that Josh Hamilton somehow quit on the team — which should go without saying, but whatever — and noted that to the extent he had issues late, it was because he was simply in an unfamiliar situation and didn’t quite know how to respond.

That seems reasonable. This, less so:

“His timing on quitting smokeless tobacco couldn’t have been worse. You would’ve liked to have thought that if he was going to do that that he would’ve done it in the offseason or waited until this offseason to do it. So the drastic effect that it had on him and the year that he was having up to that point in time that he did quit, you’d have liked that he would’ve taken a different approach to that. So those issues caused unrest, and it’s unfortunate that it happened and the timing was such as it was.”

He may be right that quitting affected Hamilton adversely, but given that Major League Baseball is trying to get players to stop using smokeless tobacco right now, banning it in the minors and fining guys who use it conspicuously in the bigs, someone at the league office probably won’t care too much for this sentiment.

Seems to me that there’s never a bad time to quit a bad habit. If the baseball suffers, it suffers. Life and health is more important.

  1. illcomm - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    then you should quit hating on teams n being so negative. try and be objective for once.

  2. Sign Ahead - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Wow. I just lost a ton of respect for Nolan Ryan.

    • largebill - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      Let me get this straight, you say you lost respect for Ryan because he told the truth. He did not say smoking or chewing are good habits. He merely said the timing was poor. Tobacco, caffeine, and other legal substances can have an effect on the human nervous system. So much of success in hitting a moving object is muscle memory and timing. There is little doubt that stopping cold turkey during the season affected him. If he had quit a week after last years World Series his nervous system likely would have adjusted to the withdrawal by spring training.

      • Sign Ahead - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:54 AM

        That’s one heck of a straw man you have there.

        I lost respect for Nolan Ryan because he encouraged someone to be self destructive for the sake of the Rangers. To me, he’s telling Hamilton that “you’re worth more to us when you’re addicted. So get off that wagon and get back in the game.”

        For someone who viewed Ryan as demanding but basically decent, that’s very disappointing.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        Bill: Your well thought out (highly accurate) post is a waste of time.
        Don’t confuse them with facts.
        In this case…facts make it hard to be up in arms about something.

      • forsch31 - Oct 10, 2012 at 12:17 PM

        @sign–actually Nolan Ryan did not encourage anyone to be self-destructive. He said that the drastic effect of quitting tobacco in season–rather than in the off-season–hurt his performance. He didn’t say Ryan shouldn’t have quit dipping, but that he wish he had taken a “different approach to that” (i.e., doing it in the off-season, as he already said). He was talking about how the timing of quitting it, not doing it vs. quitting, hurt his performance.

        It’s a statement of fact. God help us if we can’t keep respect for doing that.

      • Sign Ahead - Oct 10, 2012 at 12:29 PM

        I think you’re smarter than that. In the past few days, the Rangers have decided not to offer Hamilton a new contract and they have publicly criticized his play, something which Nolan Ryan directly linked to his quitting tobacco.

        Your right, Nolan didn’t directly say “quitting tobacco cost you your job”. But the message is still very clear.

        When I compare this to all the pretty noise the rangers made about second chances, recovery, and forgiveness a couple years ago, when it was easy and profitable to do so, I’m doubly disappointed.

      • forsch31 - Oct 10, 2012 at 5:28 PM

        Nah, I’m not into lame conspiracy theories.

      • Sign Ahead - Oct 10, 2012 at 6:07 PM

        OK, maybe you’re not that smart.

    • theawesomersfranchise - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      Wait till you find out Ryan was juicing towards the end of his career

  3. stex52 - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:13 AM

    I’m not typically into defending Nolan Ryan. But I may have to agree with him here. Hamilton was such a drama boy about the whole exercise that it clearly did mess with his performance. And Ryan is an executive with a 12 MM$ performance problem.

    It all goes back to the dilemma of signing Hamilton. How much emotional baggage are you willing to carry for such a talented player? Not an easy question to me.

  4. gloccamorra - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    In answer to Craig’s tweet – I read tweets but don’t have an account – I clicked this, and other HBT headlines with the latest Firefox on my mac, and only once failed to go to the topic. On an older version of Firefox, they all came up. With the latest version of Safari, all the topics came up. Only the latest version of Firefox on a mac has a problem, and it happened only once.

    re: the smokeless tobacco issue, as a former smoker, I can tell you that nicotine withdrawal really throws you off, mentally and physically. Ryan may be onto something, but there’s nicotine gum that’s better than dip in so many ways, that could have been used as a substitute until the off-season. Hamilton, more than any other ballplayer, should have known about withdrawal symptoms.

  5. jerryball22 - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue

    • flavadave10 - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:24 AM

      Nolan… have you ever been to a Turkish prison?

      • jayscarpa - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:48 AM

        Nolan, do you like movies about gladiators?

    • jayscarpa - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:02 AM

      Well, crap. that one was taken, how about:

      concentrate… concentrate… I’ve got to concentrate… concentrate… concentrate… Hello?… hello… hello… Echo… echo… echo… Pinch hitting for Pedro Borbon… Manny Mota… Mota… Mota…

      • chicitybulls - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:20 AM

        When Josh hears about this, the shit’s really going to hit the fan.

  6. chill1184 - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Pretty lame and odd excuse from Ryan. One has to wonder if this is just an attempt to soften fan outrage if Hamilton is allowed to walk.

    • Ben - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:26 AM

      Probably not. Hamilton is an addict. As we saw with the energy drink situation, Hamilton can and does abuse anything, and that has consequences. His craving for addictive substances is much higher than a normal persons–quitting tobacco sucks for a normal person, but for someone whose being is consumed by addiction it’s probably infinitely harder.

  7. nategearhart - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Ah, Nolan with the ol’ “WWJWD” (What Would John Wayne Do?) mentality.
    As someone who has managed to quit smoking, I can confidently say that there is NO easy or convenient time to quit. But there is a best time to quit: RIGHT F-ING NOW. Sorry if that sounds all motivational speech in the high school auditorium. If Hamilton has honestly kicked the habit for good, then I give him kudos and say the Rangers will live.
    And now for the trolling segment of this comment: Nolan, the Rangers had two years to win the World Series with a dippin’ Hamilton, and you blew it. Why the hell not try something different? 😛

    • JB (the original) - Oct 10, 2012 at 4:43 PM

      Ahh, the old WWJD. Probably the wrong place for this considering the subject, but as someone who got tired of seeing it plastered everywhere I always comment that I like the philosophy: “Why Worry, Just Drink” and for some reason, it ticks them off, not sure why……

  8. flavadave10 - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Nolan… do you like movies about gladiators?

  9. Carter Dotson - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:20 AM

    In a rational sense, I guess I agree. In an emotional sense, especially considering that Hamilton seemed to quit because he felt he was being disobedient to an invisible man in the clouds, after an adult life of ingesting whatever harmful substances in his body he felt like doing, and the seeming impact that the timing of his decision had…I’m with Nolan on this one.

    Of course, if Scott Feldman doesn’t wind up making 20+ starts this season, we’re talking about the Rangers-Tigers series right now and not this. So it’s not all about it. But I’m going to keep being bitter because I think after the last two years, I have the right to be the bitter fan for a while! Harumph!

  10. stlouis1baseball - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Wonderful. Something else we can get up in arm’s about Craig.
    Whether you agree or not…Nolan is 100% correct in regards to the side effects/withdrawals.
    Where you are in your life at the particular time you choose to quit is critical to your success.
    By this I mean critical to your success in work, play and (most importantly) kicking the habit.
    When I quit…I stayed out of bars. Drinking and cigarettes go hand-in-hand.
    Quit frankly…so does tobacco and baseball (for a huge number of baseball players).
    So…if tobacco and baseball go hand-in-hand the best time to do this is the off season (when you aren’t playing baseball). Very much like staying out of bars while trying to quit smoking.
    But let’s get up in arm’s about it.

    • bbil2012 - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:53 AM

      When I finally decide to stop drinking someday, I am definitely not going in any smoke shops!

      • badintent - Oct 10, 2012 at 7:53 PM

        Good idea ! Instead, go straight to the nearest massage place, or cat house. Clean lungs always work better under stress release procedures. Bring a bottle of champagne, she can drink it for you ! And show her gratitude with some pole dancing or some accessories.

  11. El Bravo - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Who wants to bet that a healthy Hamilton gets an MVP next year for another club? I’ll put money on that. I have a funny feelin’

    • pellypell - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      I’m with you on this.

  12. bigleagues - Oct 10, 2012 at 10:59 AM


    If he quit in June, or he quit in November, is it really that big a difference on someone’s health when they’ve been doing it long term?

  13. sagnam - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    Nolan Ryan didn’t encourage Hamilton to start chewing, that is 100% on Hamilton. Ryan is saying that delaying the decision to stop by 2-3 months would have been better for the fans and the other 24 guys on the team. I’m not about to start giving Hamilton credit for quitting something he should have never started in the first place. I’m certainly not thing him credit for quitting at the worst possible time for his team and it’s fans.

    Josh Hamilton is a selfish individual.

    • Sign Ahead - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      I agree, Hamilton chose to use chewing tobacco and the responsibility for his addiction rests with him. I also think that quitting chewing tobacco mid-season may have hurt his stats in the second half this year.

      But justifications like “I’m better at my job when I’m addicted” and “I’ll quit in a couple months, because then the timing will be perfect” are a big reason why many addicts never quit.

  14. yahmule - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Might as well trash the guy while he’s on his way out the door. Gotta give Nolan points for creativity, though.

  15. makeham98 - Oct 10, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    Nolan Ryan is a medical expert. He pitched seemingly forever solely due to “good mechanics” and advil.

  16. robert3645789 - Oct 10, 2012 at 12:06 PM

    I can’t imagine quitting a nicotine addiction and trying to play baseball. I quit, and it was an extremely difficult time both mentally and physically, for 2-3 months. Nolan was right, he should have waited until the off-season and used his wealth to purchase the top support that money could buy. Don’t think Josh knows that much yet about addiction processes.

  17. moogro - Oct 10, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    We’ve come a long way in a short time. Only the most insane troll would downplay how intense nicotine addiction is. Whether you think Ryan should have said it to ESPN or not, this is now mainstream.

  18. pellypell - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Nolan Ryan needs to drink a tall cup of STFU.

  19. xmatt0926x - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    I can’t believe people are attacking Ryan on this. All he did was tell the truth!! He did not say he would have liked Hamilton to stay on the tobacco. He gave an answer as to why Hamilton would appear to be sluggish at times and why his play all of a sudden diminished. Anyone who knows anyone who went through the nightmare of quitting something like that knows what the withdrawal can do to that person. Remember a couple months ago when Josh Hamilton was giving people those cryptic comments about people not understanding what he was going through? Then it comes out that he was in the process of quitting the dip or whatever it was and that was why he was struggling physically. In the end Ryan is really defending Hamilton in a way because I’m sure a lot of Rangers fans are wondering what the hell happened to him and why he comes off as sluggish at times. The choices are he quit on the team he is likely leaving or there was a physical excuse to his poor play. I’m sure Hamilton would prefer the latter be thought of him. Not that either is a great choice.

    • Sign Ahead - Oct 10, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      You’re right, quitting tobacco is a nightmare. There are so many physical and psychological factors working against you. Now Rangers baseball players can add one more: quitting tobacco can cost them their spot on the team. It can also earn them a public scolding from the team itself and the ire of thousands of fans.

      Whether or not Ryan was telling the truth, the way he told it encouraged addicts to listen to that insidious voice that says “I’m better when I’m addicted” and “I’ll quit later…now’s not a good time.” It was a self-serving statement that put the needs of his team ahead of the health of his players. I expect better from a stand-up guy like Nolan Ryan.

  20. vallewho - Oct 10, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    Look out for #1…

    Just like when everyone in baseball “didn’t know” tons of people were on PEDs.

  21. hardballtalkusername - Oct 10, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    He quit while he still got free sunflower seeds, the greatest thing when kicking a tobacco habit.

  22. dschminck - Oct 10, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    @Mr. Calcaterra

    “Life and health is more important.” Apparently grammar is not very important!

  23. sagnam - Oct 11, 2012 at 2:03 AM

    Ryan isn’t saying that quitting tobacco cost Hamilton his job, he’s saying that choosing to chew tobacco cost him his job.

  24. horseman4c - Nov 2, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    You know I really get tired of the everybody blaming Josh Hamilton for the Texas Rangers performances at the end. I thought it took 9 players to win or lose a ballgame, but for some reason it’s being put off on Josh. As far as the tobacco issue, I hope he was able to beat the addiction. You’ve heard the term “airhead” well I tried one time to quit smoking and my head actually felt like it was full of air. My thought processes were totally off balance. I regret to say I went back to smoking and am trying again to quit. I don’t know if it was tobacco or what, but I’m wondering if Josh got his butt chewed out for throwing so many bats because it seems when the bat throwing stopped his performance dropped too. I don’t know about you, but I know that most people don’t perform any task as well when they are being chewed out, booed, or criticized on a daily basis. So if he was chewed out for throwing bats, he fixed that problem didn’t he. We don’t care if your batting average drops, just grip the bat tighter “see like this”. Put stronger glue on it so that you can hold the bat out open handed and it won’t drop, just don’t throw another bat or you’re out of here.

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