No Love In L.A.

After an arbitrator ruled that Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton would not be suspended for a relapse, Hamilton’s employer had some choice words for the former MVP

Hamilton, 33, will not be suspended by Major League Baseball for his recent relapse (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Hamilton, 33, will not be suspended by Major League Baseball for his recent relapse (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Written by Jake Elman

Sometimes, with a television show, you’ll have what’s called a ‘wham episode.’ With a wham episode, something, or some things, happen that will make your jaw drop in shock, your fists clench in nervousness, and your brain start going crazy at things that could occur in the near future due to events in the wham episode. The recent season finale for AMC’s The Walking Dead, for example, could be considered a wham episode, what with the return of a certain character and what they see upon their reunion with character B; if you were a fan of Breaking Bad, also on AMC, one of my favorite wham episodes from the entire series was the episode ‘Blood Money’…yeah, you know what episode that is!

Anyways, my love of AMC shows aside, Friday was as close to a wham episode as we’ve had in Major League Baseball that we’ve had in a long time. Not only was Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana suspended 80 games for testing positive for steroids, but it was announced that Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, a six-time All-Star and the 2010 American League MVP, would not be suspended for a recent relapse; Hamilton, of course, struggled with a drug addiction for several years and was once baseball’s poster boy for clean living.

The initial concern was that Hamilton, in his relapse, had violated the league’s drug agreement, but that’s apparently not the case. According to an arbitrator, Hamilton would not be suspended because the Joint Drug Agreement only calls for discipline 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. So, by turning himself in, Hamilton was able to avoid any of these, and now he’s going to work on atoning for his mistake.

That sounds all good and fine, right? Well, not quite. Hamilton’s employer, the Los Angeles Angels, seemed to be expecting an incoming suspension, or at least some type of discipline, as evidenced by statements put out by the front office on Friday.

“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,” Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto said in a statement on Friday morning. Some have taken issue with that statement, but I don’t think it’s as bad as people are making it out to be.

DiPoto is disappointed that Hamilton relapsed, and I am as well. Could he have maybe said it in a somewhat kinder way? Sure, but when it comes to people relapsing on drugs or alcohol, disappointment is often a very common feeling, and he even said that the Angels are going to help and support Hamilton despite his relapse. With that being the case, I can’t say DiPoto said anything that bad. But, the same doesn’t go for Angels president John Carpino, who said the following:

“It defies logic that Josh’s reported behavior is not a violation of his current program.”

You know, John, I’m glad that’s your concern when one of your players just relapsed after years of being clean. I get that baseball is a business, but the fact you’d talk like that about one of your players — and to the press, no less — is appalling. If Carpino wanted to say it behind closed doors, fine, I can’t control that or be upset at what happens there. But to the press? This makes all of the Yankee officials bashing Alex Rodriguez look like the Joe Torre-Derek Jeter relationship in comparison.

I mean, we’re talking about a player that failed six drug tests in a three year span and has seen so many lows and highs the past decade and a half, and your priority is the lack of logic in Hamilton’s non-suspension? Way to tell Josh that you care about your player’s health, John.

Of course, Hamilton has been a disappointment in his first two seasons in Los Angeles, only hitting .255/.316/.426 with 31 homers and 123 RBI since the start of 2013. Factor that in with his relapse, and the Angels would love to see him suspended so that he’s off the hook for some money he’s owed. I get it, but they do realize that this is still a human being, right? This isn’t even tough love; this is an organization prioritizing money and contracts over the health of an employee, one who is still battling a deadly disease.

When was the last time you saw a team be this frustrated that a player wasn’t suspended? You would think that a team like the Angels, one that could realistically be World Series contenders in 2015, would be happy that Hamilton isn’t suspended and would then turn their attention to getting him healthy, right? Instead, we have an organization that is seemingly appalled at Major League Baseball’s decision not to suspend their slugging outfielder.

Should Josh Hamilton have been suspended? No, because a better punishment for him is Hamilton living with the fact that he relapsed. Now, you may be saying that me saying that is just as harsh, if not harsher, than the comments made by the Angels’ front office, but the difference is that I have no affiliation with Hamilton and I didn’t want to see him suspended. All I want from Josh Hamilton, truth be told, is for him to stay clean — I don’t care if he retires tomorrow as long as he manages to stay clean and serene.

But, it’s hard to stay clean and serene when you have people close to you doubting your ability to be healthy and wanting you to fail. Hopefully, Josh Hamilton can get clean again, and if he can’t get it done in Los Angeles, then I’m sure there are plenty of other teams that would want Josh Hamilton, the baseball player, and Josh Hamilton, the person.

Do you think that the comments made by the Angels’ front office were out of line? Make sure to chime in on the conversation by tweeting me at @JakeElman.

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