Sunday, May 27, 2007

Josh Hamilton's Lengthy Absence Raises Red Flag

He has come back from homelessness, the demons of crack cocaine, alcohol and virtually any street drug one can name. He has tried to commit suicide at least four times and had been out of baseball for five years. And now, after he miraculously appears out of nowhere to become player of the month in April, we are to believe that the Reds' Josh Hamilton has been waylaid by a simple tummy ache.

On injured reserve retroactively since May 19, Hamilton continues to miss time from what the team has described as gastroenteritis, a very big word for simple diarrhea exacerbated by intermittent vomiting. Even with attendant dehydration, a young, healthy professional athlete in a controlled environment should be sidelined for not a minute more than two or three days. Tops.

Unless there is more to the story.

It would be presumptuous to even speculate about recurring health repercussions lingering after the long, long nightmare he has lived through his 20s. But Hamilton's sudden and relatively lengthy trip to the disabled list has run up a red flag.

If Hamilton needs an enzyme -- for instance -- to overcome lactose intolerance, fluids will build in his colon and his illness will continue until brought under control. The number of other ramifications are myriad.

Hopefully the comeback story of the year will pick up where it left off as Hamilton will begin a rehabilitative assignment Tuesday with Triple-A Louisville. And for his sake, Hamilton's peculiarly long absence can be attributed to the team's need to create a roster spot to showcase third baseman Edwin Encarnacion for a trade -- or some such arcane maneuver front offices have been known to clandestinely manipulate. It seems as though details are being withheld.

But until Hamilton once again begins patrolling center field for the Reds and hitting for average and power, be afraid. Be very afraid.