Craig Calcaterra

josh hamilton getty

Suspending Josh Hamilton for a year would be obscene


As Drew noted a bit ago, Bill Shaikin and Mike DiGiovanna reported that a four-person panel appointed by Major League Baseball is trying to figure out how Josh Hamilton should be handled as a result of his recent relapse. There are a couple of lawyers on this panel, and at least part of the panel’s deliberations involve a legal interpretation of Hamilton’s actions. One of those interpretations, Shaikin and DiGiovanna note, could classify Hamilton as a four-time offender of baseball’s drug rules and could result in him being suspended for as long as a year.

This is madness.

Last week I argued that Hamilton’s drug addiction is a disease, not a bad act by a bad man, and as such should not be treated punitively. That argument was based on what I know about addiction and treatment. That’s not a lot, actually, as I have no expertise in that arena. I just have read a lot and trust professionals who seem to know what they’re talking about. I am, however, well-versed in matters of law, process and punishment, and I can say, with the utmost certainty, that what this MLB panel is reported to be considering is nothing short of obscene.

At its very core, punishment is designed to serve one of three goals or, possibly, some combination of the three:

  • Deterrence: Taking actions which would persuade someone not to do something as a means of preventing that act from happening;
  • Incapacitation: Physically or practically restraining someone from committing an offense again as a means of protecting the public; and
  • Retribution: Punishment in the form of vengeance. A pound of flesh, if you will, as satisfaction for a transgression.

Which of these three purposes would suspending Josh Hamilton — let alone suspending him for a year — serve?

Certainly not deterrence, as the concept of deterrence, by definition, deals with rational actors who can make the choice to not engage in a proscribed behavior. The PED suspensions, for example, serve a deterrence purpose. Addicts, however, are not, by definition, choosing their actions rationally, rendering deterrence inoperative when it comes to to addictive drugs.

Certainly not incapacitation. The only victim of Josh Hamilton’s actions is Josh Hamilton and his family. Baseball is not harmed by Josh Hamilton snorting coke. It is harmed by someone gambling on the game, for example, so the primary basis for punishment of gambling is to literally keep a player or manager who has gambled on baseball away, thereby incapacitating him from affecting outcomes. But this does not apply to Josh Hamilton.

Retribution? Please. The idea of taking a pound of flesh from Hamilton is beyond the pale. This is a man who is suffering and who could be in the process of destroying his life, family and career. Who on Earth is Major League Baseball to come in and say now it needs to see him suffer a bit more? Such an idea is unconscionable.

So, with the traditional basis for punishment standing inapplicable to Josh Hamilton’s situation, what possible basis is there for punishing him at all?

Josh Hamilton is sick. He needs help. It’s possible that the best way for him to be helped is for him to be away from the game for a time. If so — and that’s not at all a given — his time away from the game should be determined by doctors, mental health and substance abuse professionals, Josh Hamilton, his family, to some degree his employer and everyone else who has an actual stake in Josh Hamilton’s life and health. It should not be a punitive measure and should not, by damn sight, be determined by a punitive process.

Oh, and one final thing: Coming off of Alex Rodriguez’s 162-game suspension, a lengthy Josh Hamilton suspension would create the second example of a player who just so happens to have a gigantic contract that is not, financially, a great deal for the team, being subjected to a long, unexpected and unprecedented suspension. It’s bad optics, folks. And it might make some folks wonder if there isn’t a motive, separate and apart from the offender and the offense, for such treatment.

Follow @craigcalcaterra

Billy Bean responds to Daniel Murphy’s comments

Billy Bean


Billy Bean wrote a column at responding to Daniel Murphy’s comments. This is a a bit more than I usually prefer to blockquote, but given the space I devoted to this this morning, I think it’s important for Bean’s charitable — though unmistakably diplomatic — words about Murphy to be seen in context:

After reading his comments, I appreciate that Daniel spoke his truth. I really do. I was visiting his team, and a reporter asked his opinion about me. He was brave to share his feelings, and it made me want to work harder and be a better example that someday might allow him to view things from my perspective, if only for just a moment.

I respect him, and I want everyone to know that he was respectful of me. We have baseball in common, and for now, that might be the only thing. But it’s a start.

The silver lining in his comments are that he would be open to investing in a relationship with a teammate, even if he “disagrees” with the lifestyle. It may not be perfect, but I do see him making an effort to reconcile his religious beliefs with his interpretation of the word lifestyle. It took me 32 years to fully accept my sexual orientation, so it would be hypocritical of me to not be patient with others.

Inclusion means everyone, plain and simple. Daniel is part of that group. A Major League clubhouse is now one of the most diverse places in sports. It wasn’t always that way, but we can thank No. 42 for that. So in his honor, with a little patience, compassion and hard work, we’ll get there.

Read the whole column. His words are exquisite and suggest that, in choosing Bean, Major League Baseball made the right choice for their Ambassador for Inclusion.

Meanwhile, they’ll be serving churro dogs at Chase Field this year

diamondbacks logo alternate

That’s a mighty fine-looking sandwich:

I’ll wait for the Sonoran version, though.

Athletes should be treated fairly by the press. Even if they’re not friendly to the press.

press hat

This, from Cathal Kelly of the Globe and Mail, is really about a hockey player. But it starts out with a long anecdote about Frank Thomas and his time with the Blue Jays.

The overall story is about how the personal relationships and respect of the athlete-reporter interaction work. And as far as that goes — athletes see reporters as annoying wallpaper, reporters see athletes as quote-providing commodities — it rings quite true, sadly enough. But the conclusion that is eventually reached bugs me. And that conclusion is basically: hey athlete, if you don’t want to be ripped in the press, you should probably get to know us reporters as human beings.

Which, while not troublesome on its face — while, indeed, it is quite understandable as a point of human nature — it is a conclusion which should bother folks a bit.

It’s bothersome because the primary example Kelly uses is Frank Thomas ingratiating himself with the Toronto media at first. An ingratiation which Kelly seems to have taken as disingenuous (and it may well have been). But it’s an ingratiation which ended up protecting Thomas from being ripped like the hockey player in the article is ripped. It’s a dynamic which seems to make the formation of some personal connection — even a phony one — the prerequisite for fair treatment from the press.

I understand that the media are human beings and that all human beings are likely to be more charitable to those we know — or at least think we know — than we are to strangers or, especially, people who are rude to us. That’s just part of our nature. But reporters also have a job which inherently asks them to offer a greater level of objectivity than the average human being. Even when writing opinions over mere facts, journalists are expected to put personal biases aside — or at least to be clear and up front about their biases — and treat their subjects fairly, even if they are engaging in critical commentary.

Kelly may be right that the easiest way to not get ripped by the press is to forge some sort of personal relationship with them. And I’m choosing to believe that this article is written from the perspective of someone lamenting a reality but acknowledging that it’s easier to pragmatically short circuit that reality rather than truly change it. But I hope it’s not crazy to say that athletes shouldn’t have to be friendly — fake or otherwise — with reporters in order to get fair coverage. Polite? Obviously. But friendly and ingratiating? I would hope not. Reporters should, on some very basic level, be able to treat everyone fairly. Even if they’re jerks on occasion.

Rusney Castillo diagnosed with an oblique strain

Rusney Castillo Getty

Following up on Drew’s post from last night, the Red Sox have announced that Rusney Castillo will miss at least one week with a left oblique strain.

This will give more playing time to Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. Which is great for them even if it stinks for Castillo.