Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton is the topic of much debate in Southern California sports right now. From both public relations and socially responsible business practices perspective, the Angels have turned an already difficult situation involving Hamilton’s recently admitted relapse into an utter disaster.
The incident began to unfold in February, when Hamilton met with MLB officials and admitted to having relapsed and subsequently checked himself into a rehab facility. According to CBS Sports’ John Heyman, Hamilton’s relapse involved both cocaine and alcohol.
Most casual baseball fans know that Hamilton has battled drug and alcohol addiction since he was in the minor leagues.
His battle with drug abuse began after a series of unfortunate events transpired in 2001, while playing in the Tampa Bay minor league system.
After a car accident, in which Hamilton and his parents were hit by a truck running a red light, Hamilton experienced back pain and took some time to recover before he could get back on the field.
His parents returned home to recuperate from the accident, leaving their son for the first time in his life. Up to that point, Hamilton had never been away from his parents for more than a few days. In fact, they had retired early and taken to following Hamilton around from game-to-game his rookie league season.
Soon after his return to the field, three separate injuries occurred that sidelined him for the better part of three seasons.
Expectations had been through the roof for Hamilton and there he was, going from bench to training room and back again. Dragging his feet in to get treatment for this injuries and then more down time than he knew what to do with. All the while, Hamilton is watching his dream and other players slowly pass him by.
Dejected, Hamilton was forced away from the sport of baseball and his parents for the first time in his life. Felling all alone and not knowing how or if he would ever play baseball again, Hamilton began drinking and using cocaine, among other drugs, as a form of self-medication to deal with his loneliness and despair.
This is important to note, because Hamilton began a track record of becoming increasingly unstable in those moments when not on the field due to injuries.
It took the former #1 overall pick the better part of four years to kick his addiction and finally see major league action. The Cincinnati Reds took a chance on the rehabilitated Hamilton in 2005 and he has been one of the best players in baseball ever since.
So, fast-tracking to Hamilton’s past two seasons with the Angels.
After making the All-Star team multiple times and even the AL MVP award in 2010, the ginger-haired slugger signed a huge deal, worth over $160 million dollars, to join Albert Pujols and the Angels. Hamilton was thought of as the top free-agent on the market, so expectations coming to the LAA were through the roof.
Unfortunately, the injury train came rolling through his life once again. He spent a large portion of his two years in Anaheim mired with injuries and time away from the field.
Knowing his propensity to make poor decisions while sitting on the sidelines due to recurring injuries, one would assume that the Angels would have provided the admitted drug addict and the man they dropped more than $160 million on, an aggressive yet compassionate program to curb his tendencies to fall back into bad habits.
Instead Angels owner, Arte Moreno and GM, Jerry Dipoto took a different approach.
Over the past two seasons Angels management has done very little to accommodate Hamilton as a person whom they clearly knew had demons that could one day arise, especially as things did not go as planned on the field.
Hamilton’s body breaking down is clearly kryptonite to his sobriety.
The Angels’ laissez faire attitude regarding Hamilton’s struggle is troubling. Strictly from a business perspective, Hamilton was a sizable investment. It would be like investing in prime real estate and then instead of building atop of it, they allowed it to slowly degrade, collecting weeds and trash along the way.
While fellow Angels players like Mike Trout and C.J. Wilson have stuck by his side, speaking very highly of him as a person and as a teammate, ownership and upper management have done nothing but distance themselves from Hamilton. Even worse Moreno has openly condemned him through the media while showing no regard for his well-being.
Now, this is not to say that Hamilton is not responsible for his own actions, because he clearly is at fault for the decisions he makes. However, Hamilton has a disease and Moreno was well aware of this long before the Angels ever signed him.
At the end of the day Hamilton did the right thing by being honest, admitting himself into rehab without provocation.
For the Angels to take such minimal interest in precautions internally, choosing instead to rely on MLB officials to handle everything from monitoring to disciplining a member of their team reflects poorly upon the organization socially and is just inexplicably bad business.
After Hamilton announced his relapse, the Angels showed a complete lack of compassion towards their outfielder and clearly had one concern, to find a way to recoup the $83 million remaining on his contract.
We are now several months removed from Hamilton’s relapse and Moreno has yet to meet with Hamilton to check on his well-being.
Making matters worse, Moreno and the rest of Angels upper management have repeatedly taken to the media to get a few shots in while Hamilton was down.
Moreno has publicly shared his disappointment with MLB’s decision not to pursue disciplinary action against Hamilton.
After a recent MLB hearing that ruled Hamilton was not in violation of it’s drug policy, Moreno’s right hand man, Angels President John Carpino was audibly livid.
“It defies logic that Josh’s reported behavior is not a violation of his drug program,” said Carpino.
Why would any organization complain about their own player NOT being disciplined?
The short answer, money. Well, that’s really the only answer.
Moreno petitioned Major League Baseball to suspend Hamilton, because that would allow the Angels to release Hamilton and the remaining $83 million owed to him, due to a breach of contract provision setup in the language of the original agreement.
The Angels clearly wanted nothing more than to cut ties with Hamilton. After losing their bid to have Hamilton suspended, the Angels began waffling over what to do with their estranged star player.
While Hamilton’s teammates and skipper Mike Scioscia sounded eager to get Hamilton back, Dipoto and Moreno continued to distance themselves from him. It seemed like Hamilton would be stuck in limbo for quite some time.
Then an old friend came back into the fray for Hamilton. The Texas Rangers, Hamilton’s old team through their hat into the ring. They made it known that they cared about Hamilton and wanted to get him back.
All hail Caesar’s home. In the 11th hour, Hamilton’s fortunes changed. His nightmare career with the Angels is finally coming to an end and Hamilton is being reunited with his old team. The Rangers reached an agreement with the Angels to acquire their beloved Hamilton, while the Angels are eating a reported $60 million of his remaining contract.
Hamilton may still have one more redemption card left up his sleeve. Going back to Texas could be the best scenario for him. Hamilton is from Texas, experienced much of his professional success there and still has family and friends there as well.
Even more intriguing, the Rangers are an in-division rival of the Angels and will have to face off against the slugger with a huge chip on his shoulder every time he take the field against them.
While the Angels may have finally rid themselves of what they obviously viewed as a problem, unfortunately they, through their calloused reactions revealed a darker side of their own establishment that can never be undone.
After witnessing the Angels completely turn their back on one of their players, one can only imagine the trepidation any marquee free agent in the future would feel when considering the Angels as a potential landing spot.
With the precedent the Angels have set, it would not be the least bit surprising if other big name players steered clear of Anaheim moving forward. Not all players are going to be addicted to drugs and alcohol, but everybody struggles with something. Everybody has their own unique flaws. That is part of being human and nobody appreciates working for a group that will alienate, publicly condemn and lobby for your downfall, all in the interest of saving money.
Hamilton is no saint, we can all agree on that. However, he has an affliction, a disease that too many people do not or just refuse to understand. For Hamilton, the road will not get any easier. His disease will be doing push ups and waiting for him to slip up, have a lapse in judgement in a moment of weakness. Hopefully now, he will have a strong support system in place back in his hometown in Texas, to assist him in his journey back into the MLB and sobriety.