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:
Oh-oh. #Angels president John Carpino reporters:”It defies logic that Josh’s reported behavior is not a violation of his current program.”
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) April 3, 2015
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