Craig Calcaterra

josh hamilton angels getty

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

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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.

The Tigers are close to acquiring a relief pitcher

tigers logo
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This is not a repeat from, well, any point in the past several seasons:

Maybe, eventually, they’ll get one?

In other news, Jose Valverde is available. C’mon, Dombrowski. Make a trade if you have to, but you can get Valverde for free! We need this to happen.

Baseball is dying, you guys

Tombstone
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The Wall Street Journal highlights the new pace-of-play rules. Which aren’t characterized as a mere improvement. They are a gambit to ensure baseball’s very survival:

As the 2015 Major League Baseball season dawns, the lords of baseball are asking for our forgiveness. They want a second chance, and to get it they are making changes that could shake the game to its foundations . . . If all goes as planned, 2015 will become the year baseball finally realized it needed to change fundamentally to survive as a major sport.

Because, clearly, when fundamental survival is at stake you make crazy bold moves like, say, asking hitters to keep a foot in the batter’s box. I mean, that’s life and death crap right there.

It’s a fascinating article, really, in that it mischaracterizes all kinds of things like that. For example, hiring Bud Selig’s longtime right hand man Rob Manfred to be the next commissioner was not about maintaining continuity after years of smooth sailing and success, it was a desperate move made by desperate, ultimatum-leveling owners to save us from David Ortiz’s batting glove adjustments:

What drove these wealthy titans over the edge were moments like these: David Ortiz at the plate, endlessly rubbing his hands and adjusting his batting gloves; or David Price, the game’s most deliberate hurler, taking his usual 27 seconds between each pitch. Torpid images like this led to a breaking point, at the owners’ meetings in Baltimore in August, when the bosses named Rob Manfred as new commissioner and gave him a clear message: Get this game moving, or else.

Did I mention that the owners are desperate?

The goal is to assure fans that the caretakers of the game are serious about making changes and willing to try almost anything to achieve it . . . Purists can take heart—more drastic measures like a seven-inning game aren’t under consideration, at least not yet.

BUT SOON!!

Anyway, go for the stuff about the pace of play rules, stay for the by now tiresome and misleading stats about TV ratings and kids playing other sports. But do it fast, because baseball is dying, you guys.