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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 23, 2012 at 1:08 PM

It’s got to be one of the most underreported major stories in years. The whole world was talking about Albert Pujols having a slot start to the 2012 Major League Baseball season. He fixed his mechanics and everyone stopped jabbering. But, Josh Hamilton of the Rangers has now had a WORSE slump for a LONGER period, and it’s barely on the national radar.

Yes, the announcers will talk about it some. And, you can expect ESPN’s announcers to dwell on it some more when they show Boston at Texas tonight in prime time. But, the MAGNITUDE of the slump just isn’t crashing the headlines in a way you’d expect.

Consider:

*Hamilton is hitting just .164 in the month of July, with a poor on-base percentage of .242 and a miniscule slugging percentage of .327. Hamilton is supposed to be an MVP candidate because of his monster numbers! Shortstops couldn’t keep a job with production that bad.

*Hamilton hit just .223 in the month of June, with an on-base percentage of .318 and a slugging percentage of .436. So, it’s not three weeks of a slump, it’s SEVEN weeks of a slump!

*Hamilton gets to play his home games in a hitter’s paradise in Arlington, Texas! Those horrible stats are actually inflated compared to his true impact. In a high scoring environment, he’s coming up with even less production than it seems.

Look at his month-by-month totals this year:

April: .395 batting, .438 on-base, .744 slugging, 9 HR’s, 25 RBI’s

May: .344 batting, .405 on-base, .781 slugging, 12 HR’s, 32 RBI’s

June: .223 batting, .318 on-base, .436 slugging, 4 HR’s, 16 RBI’s

July: .164 batting, .242 on-base, .327 slugging, 3 HR’s, 5 RBI’s

Hamilton was on pace to have a year for the record books. A third of the way through the season, he was at 21 homers and 57 runs batted in. In the post steroid era! The downward trend is impossible to miss…and incredibly disturbing here in the most recent stages. Sure, you can expect some regression to the mean at historical highs over a short term. But, now it’s clear that something else is going on. An MVP turned into a minor leaguer.

Possibilities:

*Hamilton is playing through an injury that’s having a much bigger impact on his production than he had anticipated. Sometimes stars try to tough it out figuring they can deal with anything. Maybe that’s what’s happening here.

*Hamilton’s mechanics have gotten messed up in a subtle way that nobody’s yet noticed. This can happen with stars because everyone kind of goes on cruise control figuring he’ll always keep hitting. And, players that are seen as “naturals” are particularly prone to this because everything had always come easy to them at the plate. Pujols figured out what the problem was, and he’s on pace to have another big season even after his slow start.

*Hamilton is dealing with off-field distractions that everyone is keeping quiet out of respect, but that are having a big impact on his concentration and focus.

Texas is so good this year, and their schedule was so weak for such a long stretch, that there hasn’t been much of an impact in the standings. The Rangers still lead the AL West by a comfortable margin. The Rangers are still in position to earn the best record in the whole league and get home field in AL portion of the postseason brackets. It’s hard to see them going the distance if Hamilton doesn’t fix what’s been ailing him. The schedule won’t be weak in the playoffs!

Let’s see what happens tonight in the Red Sox/Rangers game on ESPN.

Our VSM handicappers have definitely looked that game over from all possible directions. A busy Monday schedule has created a bunch of big play opportunities from our experts. A few of the highlights:

*Jim Feist, off a Sunday Platinum winner on Pittsburgh over Miami, is releasing TWO Platinum plays for just $20 on his Monday Night report. That’s a $50 value for just $20.

*Coach Ron Meyer is 32-15 in July baseball so far. Get his Monday Night Angle Play and a bonus pitching mismatch for just $15.

*Kelso Sturgeon is 7-1 on his last eight major releases. The long winning streak finally ended Sunday, but a new one starts Monday. Bounce back with his 100-Unit Monday Power Play for just $20.

*Jim Hurley’s Network is 12-3 on its last 15 consensus plays. He’s just posted one for Monday Night right here at the website. Pay only $15 for what Jim Hurley says is the best play on the board.

Be sure you visit the website every day for big play announcements on the home page and complete package details on the “buy picks” pulldown page. Early bird football packages are available from many of our legends…and the NFL Preseason is now less than two weeks away!

Don’t sweat it if you’re struggling on your own. Hot handicappers are waiting to hear from you!

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