Josh Hamil­ton won’t be dis­ci­plined by MLB; An­gels sur­prised

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY RON­ALD BLUM

The de­ci­sion of an ar­bi­tra­tor not to dis­ci­pline Los An­ge­les An­gels player Josh Hamil­ton for his lat­est prob­lems with co­caine and al­co­hol has sur­prised and dis­ap­pointed Ma­jor League Base­ball and even his own team.

An­gels gen­eral manager Jerry Dipoto said he dis­agrees with the rul­ing by an ar­bi­tra­tor ap­pointed un­der MLB’s joint drug pro­gram with the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion. MLB said ear­lier Fri­day that it dis­agreed with the rul­ing.

Hamil­ton, a five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP, has played poorly dur­ing the first two years of his five-year, US$125 mil­lion con­tract with the An­gels, who still owe him US$83 mil­lion in salary over the next three years.

He is sub­ject to the treat­ment pro­gram for prior vi­o­la­tions in­volv­ing co­caine stretch­ing back a decade.

The An­gels’ pub­licly stated sup­port for pun­ish­ment of Hamil­ton is the strong­est ev­i­dence yet of the club’s dis­en­chant­ment with the high-priced out­fielder, who has been in­jured for long stretches of two largely mis­er­able sea­sons.

“Do I agree with the de­ci­sion that was made by the treat­ment board? Ab­so­lutely not,” Dipoto said be­fore the An­gels’ ex­hi­bi­tion game against the Dodgers. “But that’s not my de­ci­sion to make.”

In a state­ment, MLB said it will “seek to ad­dress de­fi­cien­cies in the man­ner in which drugs of abuse are ad­dressed un­der the pro­gram in the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing process.”

Hamil­ton self-re­ported a new is­sue this year in­volv­ing both co­caine and al­co­hol, a per­son familiar with the case said. The per­son spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause those de­tails were not made public.

MLB said it took “the po­si­tion that Hamil­ton vi­o­lated his treat­ment pro­gram and is sub­ject to dis­ci­pline by the com­mis­sioner.”

A four-per­son treat­ment board cre­ated by the joint drug pro­gram, which in­cludes one lawyer and one med­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive each ap­pointed by man­age­ment and the play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion, dead­locked 2-2 on whether Hamil­ton’s con­duct was a vi­o­la­tion of his treat­ment pro­gram and was sub­ject to dis­ci­pline. That cre­ated the need for an ar­bi­tra­tor to break the tie.

The ar­bi­tra­tor said only that Hamil­ton was not sub­ject to dis­ci­pline and did not give rea­sons for the de­ci­sion, the per­son familiar with the case said.

Hamil­ton, who turns 34 in May, won the AL MVP award with Texas dur­ing a six-year stretch as one of base­ball’s best all-around play­ers for the Rangers and Cincin­nati Reds. But his ca­reer headed down­hill in his fi­nal sea­son in Texas, and de­clined fur­ther in Los An­ge­les.

He played in just 89 games be­cause of in­juries and strug­gled at the plate through­out last sea­son, cul­mi­nat­ing in an 0-for-13 per­for­mance in the three-game loss to Kansas City in the AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries.

Af­ter rest­ing his ail­ing right shoul­der through­out the off­sea­son in the team’s un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to avoid surgery, Hamil­ton had surgery in Fe­bru­ary that will pre­vent him from play­ing un­til at least May.

Hamil­ton was the first pick in the 1999 am­a­teur draft out of high school, but his rapid rise through the mi­nor leagues was side­tracked by sub­stance abuse be­gin­ning in 2001.

He barely played base­ball for four years, but found sta­bil­ity off the field with so­bri­ety coun­sel­ing, a wife and a fam­ily that now in­cludes four chil­dren.

A year af­ter re­sum­ing his ca­reer in the mi­nors, he played his rookie sea­son in the ma­jor league with Cincin­nati in 2007 and was traded to Texas in the off­sea­son.

He was an im­me­di­ate hit with the Rangers, lead­ing the league with 130 RBIs and earn­ing a start­ing spot in the All-Star game in 2008. He won the AL bat­ting ti­tle in 2010, and he was se­lected the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries MVP while lead­ing the Rangers to their first World Se­ries ap­pear­ance.

But even dur­ing his suc­cess, Hamil­ton had prob­lems. He ac­knowl­edged a re­lapse in early 2009 af­ter he was pho­tographed get­ting drunk in a bar in Ari­zona, and he held a news con­fer­ence in 2012 to apol­o­gize for an­other night of drink­ing.

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