The Commissioner’s Office thinks that the Angels could indeed go after Josh Hamilton under his contract

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Last week Angels owner Arte Moreno claimed that there was language in Josh Hamilton’s contract which may allow the club to go after Hamilton and claw back some money from him as a result of his recent relapse. This despite the fact that, under the Joint Drug Agreement, Hamilton is not subject to any discipline.

Soon after Moreno’s comments, I reported that Josh Hamilton’s contract does not contain any language relating to substance abuse issues that would supersede the Joint Drug Agreement and that, in fact, any language in his contract that even suggests the club may go after him is no different than general boilerplate identical to that contained in other Angels players contracts, including that of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. The union followed that up with a forceful statement denying that the club has any rights with respect to Hamilton that supersede the JDA or the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Commissioner’s office has weighed in, however, and they got Arte’s back:

MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday: “We obviously have a different view than the players’ association regarding the club’s rights under these circumstances.”

Halem declined to comment further.

This is the sort of thing that could very well lead to another arbitration over Hamilton, his contract and his fate. At least if Arte Moreno and the Angels try to pursue legal action against him.

It is also the sort of thing which, if truly believed by the league and ratified by arbitration, would blow a gigantic hole in the fundamental understanding that has existed for the past decade regarding the preeminence and control of the JDA and CBA when it comes to drug matters. Indeed, the supremacy of the JDA and the uniformity of drug rules for each and every player are two key pillars to the program. Of course, so too is confidentiality and we see how much Major League Baseball and the clubs seem to care about that.

Between this stance and the approach MLB took with Alex Rodriguez in the Biogenesis matter (i.e. suspending a player for a year despite it only being a first offense) it’s hard to deny that Major League Baseball believes that it can change the deal it made with the players on a whim. It will be interesting to see if the union and its membership finally show that they’ve had enough of this and try to stop it.