Craig Calcaterra

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The Angels behavior in the wake of the Hamilton decision has been appalling

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The more I think about the month in which Josh Hamilton was in legal limbo over his drug relapse, the more I wonder why we even knew about it in the first place.

After all, in any other drug case, there is no news about it until discipline is meted out and appeals are over. Then comes the announcement from the league. In the rare cases where there is no discipline — like in the old system with amphetamines where first offenders were merely placed in diversion and weren’t suspended — we never knew. Same in the cases where players win on appeal.

The reason we don’t hear about those things? Section 5 of the Joint Drug Agreement’s very terms, which state that “the confidentiality of Player information is essential to the Program’s success” and prohibit anyone and everyone who is party to the JDA from disclosing that information to the public. And it’s not some boilerplate provision that briefly talks about keeping mum. It’s seven pages of provisions with seven different subsections and dozens more sub-sub sections which specify when and how information about a player in the drug program can be released, how the parties are to act upon an unauthorized release and how such things are to be enforced. It’s incredibly detailed because, as the preamble I quoted above said, it is considered “essential to the Program’s success.”

Josh Hamilton’s case was not handled with confidentiality. And there were two specific, major instances when confidentiality was clearly violated.

  • The first came when we first learned that Hamilton was meeting with Major League Baseball to self-report his cocaine use. This was first reported by Mike DiGiovanna, the Angels beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, whose report said “The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the meeting, learned it involved a disciplinary issue from a person with direct knowledge of the situation.”
  • The second major leak came when the panel tasked with determining whether Hamilton should face discipline deadlocked. That too came from the Los Angeles Times, from reporters DiGiovanna and Bill Shaikin. Their report about this was quite detailed and specifically stated that the information came from people “who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is not supposed to be discussed publicly.”

It does not require a leap of faith to believe that this information came from parties who are not Josh Hamilton, as Hamilton has no incentive for the world to know that he took cocaine again and could be suspended. Could the leaking party be Major League Baseball? It’s possible. They’ve certainly leaked before. But it’s also worth noting that past leaks from the league office did not come via the beat reporter for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Maybe the Angels leaked this stuff, maybe they didn’t. We can’t be sure. The JDA provides for a grievance procedure regarding such leaks, but it’s a hard case to make. It specifically says that citing anonymous reports in newspapers which don’t clearly identify the leaking party, and nothing more, is not enough to win the grievance. Here whoever was leaking probably covered their tracks just enough to be safe. And it’s not like you can subpoena a reporter and expect him to spill. We just don’t do that, nor should we.

But if we can’t know for certain that the Angels leaked this stuff and thus cannot sanction them, we can certainly judge them. Judge them for the snippy comment from Angels GM Jerry DiPoto earlier today. Judge them for this, which came out just a few minutes ago:

Such a response, especially about one’s own player, especially mere hours after the decision in his case was announced, is the very definition of pettiness and gracelessness. It’s almost as if the Angels had already spent the millions they thought they’d save due to a Hamilton suspension on a boat or something and now they’re mad. The closest analog I can think of to this situation is Yankees officials talking about A-Rod, but at least they had the decency to remain anonymous. And at least in that case A-Rod was making just as much use of the media as the club was.

Josh Hamilton has some baggage, of this there can be no doubt. And he may have ongoing problems. But it’s baggage that everyone in the world knew about before he signed his deal with the Angels and problems the risk of which the Angels willingly and eagerly assumed. For them now to behave like they’re behaving — to be disappointed that their player was not suspended and to disparage his “commitment,” “behavior” and his “conduct” as if he were a criminal as opposed to a drug addict — is appalling. And certainly makes it reasonable to question whether they were, in fact, the party which found it within their best interest to tell the newspapers that their player was involved in a process which was detrimental to him and which was supposed to remain confidential.

Whatever the case, they should be ashamed. And they should issue an apology to their player

UPDATE: Giants extend Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy through the 2019 season

Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy
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UPDATE: The extensions are done: three years, locking Sabean and Bochy up through 2019. But that’s not all: Sabean gets a promotion.

As Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports, Sabean, the general manager since 1996, is being promoted to executive vice president of baseball operations. Assistant general manager Bobby Evans was promoted to general manager. Whether this changes the way in which baseball decisions are done in San Francisco — as opposed to merely reflecting the recent trend of title inflation among front office executives — is not clear.

Either way: the brain trust that has won the Giants three World Series in the past five years remains in place.

UPDATE: CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the extensions for Sabean and Bochy will run through at least 2018 and should be announced tomorrow. Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com hears from multiple baseball sources that the Giants and Sabean have discussed him moving into a president of baseball operations role with assistant GM Bobby Evans potentially being promoted to general manager.

10:30 a.m. ET: Bob Nightengale reports that The Giants are “getting close” to long-term deals for GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy.

Which, hey, why not? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. All these two have done is win three World Series in five seasons. While talent ages, comes and goes, you’re not gonna go wrong in life keeping good managers and GMs in place.

The two of them are under contract through 2016 already, but longer is better. And, as Nightengale notes, given what the Dodgers are paying Andrew Friedman and the Cubs are paying Joe Maddon, who have exactly zero World Series rings between them, Sabean and Bochy are probably about ready to become super friggin’ rich.

Breaking: Josh Hamilton to receive no discipline in the wake of his relapse

josh hamilton angels getty
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Major League Baseball just announced that Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will not receive discipline for the recent drug relapse. That after an arbitrator ruled earlier this week that Hamilton did not fail to comply with this substance abuse treatment program. He will not be suspended and is free to rejoin the Angels immediately.

Major League Baseball has released a statement regarding the arbitrator’s ruling. Hamilton was represented in the matter by attorney Jay Reisinger and Tina Miller of Farrell & Reisinger in Pittsburgh. A call was placed to Reisinger and Miller for this story but they were unavailable for comment.

The ruling was based on the arbitrator’s interpretation of Section 4(C) of the Joint Drug Agreement, which handles violations of a players’ treatment program. Under that section, a player is said to have committed a violation if the player (a) refuses to submit to evaluations and followup tests; (b) “consistently fails to participate in mandatory sessions with his assigned health care professional”; (c) his health care professional tells Major League Baseball that the player is not cooperating; or (d) the player tests positive for a drug of abuse.

None of these applied to Hamilton. Rather, Hamilton self-reported his use of cocaine to Major League Baseball. Said use was characterized to NBC Sports.com by a person familiar with the proceedings as a “slip” as opposed to a “relapse.” Hamilton had, in the past, been involved in isolated incidents involving alcohol, which likewise did not result in any discipline.

Following Hamilton’s late February admission to league officials, a four-person “treatment board” consisting of two members  appointed by the commissioner’s office and two by the players’ union was convened to consider Hamilton’s case. That board deadlocked, with the two owner representatives deciding that Hamilton committed a violation and the player representatives concluding that he did not. That, per the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement necessitated the appointment of the arbitrator to break the tie, leading to the decision announced today.

This ends more than a month of controversy surrounding Hamilton’s case. Despite the fact that baseball’s drug policies mandate strict confidentiality, early in the process there were multiple leaks, apparently from Major League Baseball’s side, about the details of Hamilton’s case. This led to a sharp response from the union condemning the leaks and claiming that those doing the leaking “want to see Josh Hamilton hurt personally and professionally.” This latter reference could be to the fact that a Hamilton suspension would provide some relief to the Angels, who still owe Hamilton $83 million over the next three years on his five-year, $125-million contract. A player who is suspended is not paid.

Meanwhile, the case has led to a larger argument as to whether or not the league should be approaching it as a disciplinary matter at all in light of Hamilton’s clear status as a drug addict and the increasing awareness of the fact among substance abuse professionals and others that drug addiction is a disease and that diseases should be treated, not punished. That issue was not addressed in today’s ruling, though Major League Baseball’s statement did make reference to a desire to change the manner in which such cases are handled in the future, possibly by changes to the Joint Drug Agreement and the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Whether those changes would be aimed at making discipline more or less severe is unclear.

For now, however, one thing is clear: Josh Hamilton is free to play baseball for the Angels once he is healthy.

And now the HardballTalk Staff’s 2015 Predictions

Oracle of Delphi
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We’re usually wrong with this stuff. Waaaay wrong.

All of us picked the Phillies to win the NL East in 2012. We all picked the Nationals in 2013. Last season we leaned heavy on the Cardinals and Red Sox and most of us thought the Rangers would be good. All of which is to say that, once again, we’re all likely going to whiff on this year’s picks, too. Bank on it.

But we make our picks anyway because that’s what professional baseball writers do. And because it’s fun. And, unlike some folks out there, we own our wrongness. Those other analysts merely adopt the wrong. But we’re born in it, molded by it.

So, obviously, we don’t take this exercise entirely seriously. No battle plan survives engagement with the enemy and such. If you save these and throw them back in our face come October, well, you’re sort of missing the point. If these predictions make you angry or resentful or convinces you that someone harbors bias or a vendetta against all that you love, you probably need to see a therapist.

Whatever the case, it’s fun to try to predict the future, darn it, so here we are. Wild card picks have an asterisk next to them.

CRAIG

AL East: Orioles, Red Sox*, Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays
AL Central: Indians, White Sox, Tigers, Royals, Twins
AL West: Angels, Mariners*, A’s, Astros, Rangers
NL East: Nationals, Marlins, Mets, Braves, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, Pirates*, Cubs, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, Giants*, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies

World Series: Dodgers vs. Mariners — Dodgers win

AARON

AL East: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Yankees
AL Central: Indians, Tigers*, Royals, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Mariners, A’s*, Angels, Astros, Rangers
NL East: Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Braves, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, Pirates*, Cubs, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, Giants*, Padres, Diamondbacks, Rockies

World Series: Nationals vs. Mariners — Nationals win

D.J.

AL East: Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays
AL Central: Tigers, *Indians, White Sox, Royals, Twins
AL West: Angels, *Mariners, Athletics, Astros, Rangers
NL East: Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Braves, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, *Pirates, Cubs, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, *Padres, Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks

World Series: Dodgers vs. Angels – Dodgers win

DREW

AL East: Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Rays
AL Central: Indians, White Sox*, Tigers, Royals, Twins
AL West: Mariners, Angels*, Athletics, Astros, Rangers
NL East: Nationals, Marlins*, Mets, Braves, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, Pirates*, Cubs, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks

World Series: Nationals vs. White Sox — Nationals win

BILL

AL East: Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Yankees
AL Central: White Sox, Tigers*, Royals, Indians, Twins
AL West: Mariners, Angels**, Athletics, Rangers, Astros
NL East: Nationals, Marlins, Mets, Braves, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, Padres*, Giants**, Diamondbacks, Rockies

World Series: Nationals vs. White Sox, Nationals win in 5

MATTHEW

AL East: Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays
AL Central: Tigers, Indians*, White Sox, Royals, Twins
AL West: Mariners, Angels*, Athletics, Astros, Rangers
NL East: Nationals, Marlins*, Mets, Braves, Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals, Pirates*, Cubs, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks

World Series: Cardinals over Mariners

2015 Previews: The National League West in a nutshell

Yasiel Puig
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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2015 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League West:

The Giants are the defending champs, but did they get worse in the offseason? The Dodgers did some tinkering, but they still have the best pitcher in the game and more money than God. The Padres had the busiest offseason of any team, but did all that sound and fury signify anything? The Diamondbacks have a new manager and a new GM, but will that translate to immediate results? The Rockies: entering year 23 of trying to figure out how to pitch at altitude.