Josh Hamilton is a major league baseball player for the Los Angeles Angels. You may have heard of him before or even might remember his huge home run derby display during the All-Star festivities back at Yankee Stadium in 2008. If you don’t live under a rock then you’ve probably heard of Josh Hamilton’s recent relapse with his drug and alcohol addiction. New commissioner Rob Manfred, after meeting with Hamilton, must mull over the proper discipline for this troubled player. Does Hamilton deserve to be suspended for 25 games, maybe a whole year? Maybe he just needs 30 days in a rehab facility or even a combination of both. Regardless, the one common thought surrounding the situation is that we should all wrap our arms around Hamilton and help him to get better.
Let me start by saying I know addiction is a disease, I’ve dealt with it on a personal level and I am by no means trying to say this is not a serious situation. I, as well as everyone else, hope that Hamilton can figure out a way to get better and deal with his issues; if not overcome them entirely. What I am saying is that I have no faith in Hamilton to do any of these things, his track record shows this.
There are many addicts who, despite their struggles and limited resources, have found ways to handle their illness. With an embarrassment of resources at his disposal to help handle his demons, Hamilton has continued to reverse course repeatedly. We are told by baseball writers far more accomplished than I to dislike Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds thanks to their laundry list of PED offenses, but to embrace Josh Hamilton because his indiscretion is personal and has no bearing on the game?
Sorry, that’s not how it works here in the “blue collar district.” The wide majority of people who have jobs, and yes, let’s not forget being a baseball player is a profession, would get fired for Hamilton’s actions. They also would not have had the systems put around them to try and prevent these actions, let alone the fact that many do not earn in a lifetime what Hamilton earns in a single year.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane.
Hamilton was the first pick in the 1999 draft by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays and received a signing bonus just shy of $4 million dollars. He enjoyed much success in their minor league system during the 2000 season, being named South Atlantic League All-Star game MVP and also participating in the MLB Futures game. He would go on to be named minor league player of the year. Prior to the 2001 season, Hamilton and his parents were involved in an automobile accident, suffering minor injuries. It was during this time that Hamilton began hanging around the wrong people and getting involved with drugs and alcohol which ultimately led to his first attempt at rehab.
The following season, Hamilton played in 56 games before toe and neck injuries ended his season. After noticing a change in Hamilton, the Devil Rays sent him to the Betty Ford Clinic for his now second attempt at drug rehab. The 2003 season brought Hamilton’s first official failed drug test during Spring Training. During that fateful spring, Hamilton would consistently show up late or leave the team before resurfacing days later. This was a continuing trend before he eventually took the year off for “personal reasons.”
So, he takes his year off, all is fine and dandy, and we get to the start of the 2004 season. Hamilton is suspended 30 days and fined for violating the new drug policy MLB has instituted. Hamilton would have had to have failed two or more tests for a drug more severe than marijuana based on the terms of the policy and Hamilton’s suspension length. A month and two more failed tests later, Hamilton was suspended for the entire year.
This was the start of Hamilton’s three year banishment from professional baseball. He tried coming back in 2005 before being arrested after smashing a friends windshield, a move that led the Devil Rays to place him on the restricted list and remove him from their 40-man roster. Another relapse led to his second year long suspension in 2006. However, after MLB blocked Hamilton from playing with an independent minor league team, he was back playing in the Rays minor league system by July after no other team was willing to put in a waiver claim. The Rays left Hamilton off their 40-man roster in 2006 leaving him open to the Rule 5 draft where he was selected by the Chicago Cubs and then traded to the Cincinnati Reds. That year, 2007, Hamilton finally made his MLB debut with the Reds. He went on to become rookie of the month for April before making continued trips to the disabled list. The Reds would then trade Hamilton to the Texas Rangers right before Christmas.
For the next four seasons in Texas, Hamilton’s career looked like it had hit the stride many thought it would when he selected first overall nearly a decade earlier. Multiple All-Star appearances were just the appetizer, as a batting title along with an American League MVP and an American League Championship Series would come Hamilton’s way during his tenure in Texas. Hamilton’s career in Texas ended on a sour note after he misplayed a fly ball that would cost the Rangers the American League West division title and then a couple days later, struck out ending a Rangers rally during a Wild Card loss against Baltimore. Hamilton would leave Texas for Anaheim during the following offseason.
Prior to signing with the Angels via free agency, Hamilton would make remarks saying he owed Texas nothing and calling the town a football town and insinuating that Texas fans were not real baseball fans. In response to his being booed during the Wild Card game, he called the fans “spoiled.” Hamilton’s time in Anaheim has been a disappointment so far, to say the least, highlighted by an 0-13 in the Division Series against Kansas City. After being booed Hamilton responded by saying “I don’t play for the fans in the stands, but for the other players.”
I wish I could say that the four years in Texas were all sunshine and rainbows and good baseball but then again, that’s not the Josh Hamilton way. Hamilton was very vocal about his addiction, saying faith and God had helped him to overcome his addiction. He wrote a book and reportedly even had a movie being made about his life. In compliance with the MLB drug policy, Hamilton is subject to urine tests at least three times a week, something Rangers coach Jimmy Naron said was something Hamilton looked forward to. ” He knows he’s an addict. He knows he has to be accountable. He looks at those tests as a way to reassure people around him who hadfaith.” Hamilton appeared in testimonials discussing his recovery and his teammates, mindful of his addiction, choose to celebrate with ginger ale instead of the customary champagne.
Yet during this stretch of seemingly model behavior, Hamilton continued dabbling in the shadows. He confirmed a relapse in early 2009 after photos were released of him in a bar and witnesses saying they heard Hamilton asking where he could get cocaine. In Feburary of 2012, Hamilton again admitted to a relapse, this time saying he had two or three drinks before inviting Ian Kinsler to go “talk” at a bar.
Now, there is his most recent relapse. Hamilton apparently had admitted the relapse to MLB officials, leading to his sit down in New York. This recent relapse shows that there are no lengths to which Hamilton, will go to meet his addiction. According to a report from Yahoo, Hamilton is not allowed to carry cash or credit cards, so instead, wrote out a check to cash following a fight with his wife. He ended up at a strip club where he used cocaine.
My feelings on this matter are based strictly on Josh Hamilton and no other factors. I know many people view the possible recourse as a way for the Angels to get out from his contract, and I will touch on that as well. You see, I feel that on a similar level Manfred is in the same situation NBA commissioner Adam Silver faced during the Donald Silver ordeal. Early after assuming the mantle of commissioner, Silver was faced with a major decision which the ramifications would last regardless of which end he landed on. The same can be said for this decision that Manfred finds himself facing. Why are we not facing this incident with the same intensity and aggression we take with PED users? You can call it a personal matter all you want, but how different would it be if during one of these several relapses Hamilton had gotten behind the wheel or found another way to possibly hurt someone or several people? Would there be an outcry then?
Hamilton has shown no thankfulness for what he’s been given and certainly no respect for the game. His talk of faith and recovery have been shallowed by his continual relapses and render his continual apologies for his actions useless. When given the opportunity, Hamilton has continually reminded us that he doesn’t do anything for you, the fans. His addiction is only fueled by his means, just like any other wealthy person. Hamilton was out of baseball, sleeping on an air mattress and cleaning toilets, but apparently that wasn’t rock bottom enough for him. As soon as he got back in and the success and money began to come back, so did his issues. He’s had two season long suspensions in his career and at least team/league issued trip to a rehab facility. So is that really the means to show this isn’t acceptable for a major league baseball player? Are we suddenly viewing multiple failed drug tests on a smaller scale than a failed test for PEDs?
The answer here is simple. It’s not one of harshness, misunderstanding, or being uncompassionate. This about a track record and sending a message that all failed drug tests are viewed equally regardless of what the drug is. Josh Hamilton should be banished from baseball for the foreseeable future. I would insist but not demand that he go to a rehab facility, helping him only if that’s the route he chooses to take. If at some point in the future, Hamilton feels he is past this and can demonstrate to the league that this is the case then he can apply for reinstatement. If Pete Rose is facing the same fate for gambling, why shouldn’t Hamilton?
As of this moment, the options commissioner Manfred is considering as his course of action will serve Hamilton and the league no good in the long run. They’ve already been tried and tested. In the end, Hamilton can still play baseball, get paid his million of dollars, have his wife and children, and have the world in his hands. You must strip him of the power that drives his addiction and makes it possible. Take away the game that has put him in the position he’s in and take away the money that has made it much easier for him to put himself in bad situations. To ensure the Angels gain no advantage from this, the money must still be paid but instead of paying it to Hamilton, they would instead make the payments to different groups and foundations that deal with addictions.
Addiction is an everyday struggle many people deal with. Some people choose to fight it, others drown in it. Hamilton has seemingly laughed in the face of his, calling upon it when he chooses, as he’s profited on the story along the way. My way doesn’t solve Hamilton’s issue, he’ll still have money and a lot of it, and presumably his wife and family will stick by his side and be the support system that we all hope they can be. It would be hard for Hamilton to truly hit rock bottom like others have, waking up somewhere you don’t remember with no money, family, support, or even an idea of how you truly are. Josh Hamilton won’t hit that rock bottom, but if he’s to truly get better and fight this addiction, then this is the path baseball and he must take.