Josh Hamilton

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


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

GM Jerry Dipoto: “Angels have serious concerns about Josh Hamilton’s conduct, health and behavior”

scioscia and dipoto angels

In response to today’s ruling that Josh Hamilton will not be suspended for his drug relapse, Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto issued the following 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 made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family.

Within the context of Hamilton being someone who has struggled with drug addiction for a significant portion of his life Dipoto’s “serious concerns” and “disappointed” comments come across with a tinge of anger and seem awfully callous.

Reading between the lines, it sure seems like the Angels are upset about still being on the hook for the $83 million remaining on Hamilton’s contract and, if nothing else, it’s certainly the opposite of welcoming him back to the team with open arms. This situation may get even uglier.

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

josh hamilton angels getty

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 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.

2015 Previews: The American League West in a nutshell

Mike Trout

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 American League West.

The Angels are down Josh Hamilton and Howie Kendrick and have some questions about their rotation, but with Trout all things are possible. The M’s looked armed to the teeth when it comes to pitching, but is there enough firepower on offense? The A’s have totally reshuffled, but that’s nothing new for them; they’ve done it and won before. The Astros are still rising, but how far have they risen? And the Rangers, well, at least they’ve met their health insurance deductible early once again:


MLB’s delayed Josh Hamilton ruling could keep the Angels from extending Huston Street

Huston Street Angels

Impending free agent closer Huston Street wants to sign a contract extension with the Angels before Opening Day and the Angels are interested too, but Alden Gonzalez of reports that the team “could be in a holding pattern” while they await word on MLB’s punishment of Josh Hamilton.

Hamilton is under contract for $23 million this season, but if he’s suspended without pay by MLB the Angels could potentially reallocate that money and giving Street an upfront signing bonus is one possible option.

Street is without an agent, representing himself, and has said he won’t negotiate after Opening Day, so it’s possible the delayed ruling on Hamilton’s status could lead to his leaving the Angels via free agency after the season.

Street joined the Angels in mid-July, coming over in a deal with the Padres, and saved 17 games with a 1.71 ERA. Combined during the past three seasons he’s got a 1.97 ERA in 155 innings and despite seemingly being a closer forever Street is still just 31 years old.