Josh Hamilton: Love Him or Hate Him, Outfielder Wronged by Angels

I have seen a lot of things in my 25-years of watching, reading about, and generally consuming as much information as I can about the game of baseball. Yesterday, I saw something I had never seen before, something that the sports world had never seen before. Yesterday, a professional sports team openly disagreed with a decision concerning player discipline.

Hold on, doesn’t that type of thing happen every year?

Well, not exactly. Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced that Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim, of course!), outfielder Josh Hamilton would not be suspended for a self-reported cocaine relapse. An independent arbitrator ruled that Hamilton’s relapse did not violate MLB’s Joint Drug Agreement. The league issued a statement calling for change to the JDA.

It is baseball’s prerogative to address deficiencies in its own drug testing program. I see no fault with the league’s statement or handling of the entire case. The Commissioner sought to discipline a repeat drug offender who is on the tightest of leashes. I do not think anyone would disagree that some sort of punishment would be justifiable.

After the announcement that Hamilton would not be suspended, it became increasingly evident that the Angels organization had been salivating at the possibility of voiding all or part of the remaining $83 million Hamilton is owed over the next three years.

Here are two winning statements from the mouths of Angels brass yesterday.

Team president John Carpino followed that official statement up with a real doozy of his own.

That is quite the ringing endorsement. First, the GM, then the team president publicly tear into their own player. The Angels knew what they were getting into with Hamilton when they signed him. His past trials and tribulations with drugs and alcohol have been reported ad nauseum. Of course, those indiscretions would be a bit easier to stomach had Hamilton showed any sign of being able to live up to the five year, $125 million contract he signed with the Angels prior to the 2013 season.

I do not give the Angels credit for trying to make some sweeping social statement on the hazards and dangers of drugs in society. No, rather, they are a franchise up against the luxury tax who saw Hamilton’s battle with addiction as a nice way out of a bad contract. Am I being cynical? No, I don’t think so.

Hamilton has hit only .255 with 31 home runs and 123 RBI in 240 games with the Angels. Consider his final season with Texas — 43 home runs and 128 RBI. The Angels have buyer’s remorse. Sad as it may be, the best thing for Arte Moreno’s franchise would have been a disciplinary outcome forcing Hamilton out of the game of baseball.

Some have gone so far as to question whether or not the Angels themselves were the source of the leak which alerted the media to Hamilton’s meeting with Commissioner Manfred in New York. Ken Rosenthal published a piece yesterday with very strong words concerning the Angels behavior throughout the entire process. This was meant to be a confidential disciplinary process, but the Angels went so far as to confirm Hamilton’s meeting in New York. Here is some of what the always excellent Rosenthal had to say about Hamilton and the Angels.

So, who was responsible for the leaks?

As a reporter, I know that information comes from everywhere, and not always obvious sources. The Angels, however, are the one entity that stood to benefit if Hamilton was suspended and forfeited a portion of his $23 million salary in 2015. He also is guaranteed $30 million in both 2016 and ’17, and considering his declining performance in recent seasons, the Angels surely would love to escape that obligation as well.

The initial report on Hamilton from the Los Angeles Times said he was meeting with baseball about a disciplinary issue and that the team was bracing for possible penalties. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that Hamilton was in New York but said nothing else. A scramble then ensued to report why the meeting took place, and both and New York Daily News reported that his relapse involved cocaine.

I’m not sure the Angels acted properly in confirming Hamilton’s initial meeting in New York. And the club went public again Friday, saying in a statement, “The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he has made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans.”

It is clear which side of the debate Rosenthal is on. He pulled no punches in calling out the organization. Rosenthal is an industry pro. He has sources in high places that this humble blogger could never dream of accessing, and it is clear that whatever he has heard regarding the Angels’ behavior did not sit well.

The Angels acted improperly throughout the entire ordeal, driven on by the off-chance that they would be able to wiggle off the hook for $83 million. Thanks to the Angels’ actions early on in the process, a feeding frenzy ensued. Hamilton was charged, tried, and executed in the court of public opinion months before the arbitrator handed down his ruling.

That apparently was not good enough for the Angels, and they felt the need to stoke the flames burning beneath their player yet again. It is an oft-repeated adage that money brings out the worst in people, and that has clearly been the case with the Angels front office. I harbor no ill will towards them for wanting out of Hamilton’s contract. There is not a general manager in the game of baseball that does not have a contract on his roster he wishes would vanish into thin air.

There was no way, shape, or form in which this latest chapter in Josh Hamilton’s battle with addiction would end pretty. Through their words and actions, the Los Angeles Angels lifted up the curtain to the inner workings of the business of baseball. They had hoped to twist the league’s policy on illegal drugs for an eight-figure rebate on a sports car that turned out to be a lemon.

Things like this will happen in baseball, and we were treated to a similar display two years ago when the Yankees left Alex Rodriguez twisting in the wind as they publicly sided with the league during the Biogenesis saga. To their credit, the Yankees have moved past the matter, and appear at peace with A-Rod’s return to the field.

A public apology is due to Hamilton from Moreno, DiPoto, and Carpino. Do not expect one. Yesterday’s statements cannot be retracted, and bridges have been burned — scratch that, napalmed — beyond repair. Business is business in baseball, but the words of the Angels’ executives show a clear disregard for Hamilton’s health as a human being, and for that the Angels should be sorry.


4 Responses

  1. Historybuff_99

    I am very sorry Josh you are surrounded by a bunch of INCOMPASSIONATE A-HOLES. People HATE people that have drug problems. They treat murderers and rapists better than they treat someone with a medical issue!

  2. carllafong

    Excuse me– then you pay the 125MM Josh Hamilton is owed for nothing. What is Josh’s responsibility? Make promises, sign a contract, act badly, don’t workout, and collect his money? When does Josh issue an apology? Seek Mr. Moreno out? Offer to give back the first half of this year’s salary? If you don’t show up to write your column because you’re coked out you might lose your job. We all know Josh is a recovering addict. We also know that Mr. Moreno took a chance on him– something that should be applauded. Tampa Bay let Josh go for a reason. So did Cincy. So did Texas. If I was Moreno I’d be fuming.

    • Jack

      I see where your coming from, and he did take responsibility for what he did. He admitted it. The issue is confidentiality, which is very clear in the drug agreement, and MLB and the Angels very clearly violated those terms. Hamilton did not violate the agreement. I can see where the frustration is, but the Angels knew the risks going into, and they can’t support their player when he admits to it, than I’m not sure they were the team to sign him.

      • carllafong

        You say Josh admitted doing cocaine like he had a choice– he didn’t. He was going to fail his upcoming mandatory drug test. He simply acted in his own best interest and got ahead of the story– and it worked. A man who admits doing cocaine was found to not have broken the drug policy. Never mind that what he did broke the law– he did nothing wrong in the eyes of the arbitrator. However, admitting you did wrong does not mitigate the wrong– it simply shows contrition. Josh is now 33, a grown man. Saying I’m sorry doesn’t make everything okay. More puzzling to me about you Josh apologists is that it doesn’t seem to bother you that he hasn’t publicly addressed his transgression, nor has he apologized. He has not reached out to Mr. Moreno– has said nothing to the fans, players and management. So, how you determine he’s just a good guy that made a mistake and is sorry– doesn’t make sense to me. It just tells me you’re a good guy that cares about people and want to give him another chance. The problem is– does he really want another chance?

        Your assertion that it was the Angels that leaked his case may be true, but there are no facts to support that contention and you should in fairness tread lightly making that accusation. The league is not investigating the Angels as there is no proof of wrong doing. As you know, leaks happen on every trade, player release and general goings-on in the league. The probability of keeping this quiet when Josh had discuss the matter with his family, agents, commissioner’s office, player’s union, Angels, friends and players is remote. I don’t think it’s fair to paint the Angels as sabotaging this guy when the evidence shows they were nothing but generous with him with money and personnel to help him stay on track.

        I have no frustration with a player making a lot of money and failing to produce– that’s the way it goes sometimes. I do have a problem with a player like CJ Wilson saying he thinks the Angels should be building bridges. Bridges are built from two directions. The Angels rewarded Josh with a 125MM contract despite his past– so obviously they were open minded and judgmental. I don’t see how it is reasonable for you to now say they knew what they were getting into, as if he was a staggering junkie. He wasn’t. He had been clean and presented himself as a dedicated baseball player and family man dedicated to Jesus. In fact, Josh’s first sponsor who helped get him clean just said he thinks it’s wrong for Josh to take money he is not earning. He also said he thinks Josh is hiding behind Jesus and saying what he thinks people want to hear. To that point Josh made promises and commitments that he did not live up to regarding staying sober. The Angels incurred additional expense and time babysitting him in a manner that they have never extended to any other player in their history. It is a childish stance to say the Angels need to provide Josh with money and structure and Josh has no responsibility. As long as he says he sorry everything’s okay and he should collect a check. How is that reasonable? Josh has left his team shorthanded and crippled with his salary, but that’s the Angels’ problem? Who created that the problem– certainly not the Angels? What is Josh’s punishment? As of now– I see none. If I hire a paroled bank robber and he robs me, would you say I deserved it because I knew his history? Think about it.

        I actually do believe Moreno when he says this is not about money– it’s about feeling lied to. It’s about Moreno feeling Josh is not trying to make things right. It’s about Josh not offering his hand, or to give any money back. It’s about Josh not stepping up in a public way and leaving all the questions to be answered by the Angels. Josh is not a victim, he created the situation with his behavior. What he should be doing is apologizing and focusing on getting his life together, but while you’re doing that you don’t collect a check. His behavior displays that this is very much about money for him, not getting sober or baseball.

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