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

173 Comments

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

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

atlanta braves
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
7 Comments

ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.