Josh Hamilton reveals “mystery issue” is chewing tobacco

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Josh Hamilton has yet to reveal the nature of the mystery issue he’s repeatedly made cryptic comments about for the past week, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the former MVP’s inability to quit chewing tobacco is the source.

Hamilton unsuccessfully tried to quit last year and then went public with a follow-up effort last month, but apparently it didn’t take.

Considering how open he’s been about the chewing tobacco habit in the past it seems a little odd that he’d be so cryptic about the situation this time around, particularly since his comments led to speculation about a variety of potential off-field issues and caused both manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniels to address the situation.

Here’s the initial Hamilton comments that started all the rumors and speculation last week:

I’ve been shown a lot of things over the past week. There’s disobedience and there’s obedience to God. I’ve been being disobedient. It may be a small thing to you, but it’s a big thing to him. There’s consequences. It’s like a father and a kid. There are disciplines. You guys can chew on that and think about it.

I suppose “you guys can chew on that” was a hint. Or maybe not. And then last night Hamilton declined to reveal any details, saying “people are not going to understand” and “it’s nobody’s business.”

Hamilton has been in an extended slump at the plate, going from the best player in baseball early this season to hitting just .201 with 59 strikeouts and a .674 OPS in 49 games since June 1 and .178 since July 1. He’s shown some signs of life recently, going 2-for-5 with four RBIs last night and 6-for-19 (.316) with three extra-base hits in his last four games.

UPDATE: Hamilton issued the following statement:

Due to the speculation that occurred from my recent comments, I felt it was important to clarify what the “issue” was to which I was referring–both personally and professionally. The issue is “discipline.” Professionally, it’s been plate discipline. Personally, it’s been being obedient to the Lord in quitting chewing tobacco. I was hesitant to address the tobacco once again, because it’s an area that I’ve struggled with trying to quit in the past. I wanted to have some time of success “under my belt” before addressing again publicly, but feel I haven’t been given that option with all of the speculating out there as to what the “mystery issue” was. But there you have it. Discipline. Hebrews 12:4-5 and John 3:30.

Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez don’t have any interest in participating in the Home Run Derby, either

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Earlier, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge more or less cemented what we already knew: that he doesn’t have any interest in defending his Home Run Derby title in July when the All-Star festivities are held at Nationals Park. It sounds like Red Sox outfielders Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are on the same anti-Derby page.

When asked if he had any interested in participating in the Derby, Betts said (via Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe), “Hell no. I don’t hit home runs in BP. Can you imagine me going against Aaron Judge?” Betts was told Judge won’t be participating, then asked if that changed his mind. He said, “Hell no. I’m not that kind of hitter.”

Martinez won’t participate but for a different reason. He’s still upset he was passed over for inclusion in the Derby in 2015. Martinez said, “MLB didn’t want me. I figured I’d have the option of doing it and they said no. They had other guys they wanted, all these young guys. I was like, ‘Forget it. I’ll never do it.'”

Betts and Martinez have been two of baseball’s best hitters thus far. Betts entered Wednesday’s action batting .368/.439/.772 with an MLB-best 16 home runs along with 35 RBI, 49 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases. Martinez is hitting .343/.399/.674 with 15 home runs and 41 RBI.