Play­ers in tough spot

Those seek­ing to sup­port team­mate and friend are in po­si­tion of dif­fer­ing with boss Moreno’s strict stance.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­vanna@la­times.com Twit­ter: @MikeDiGio­vanna

Owner’s strong stance on Hamil­ton sit­u­a­tion puts team­mates in awk­ward po­si­tion.

Owner Arte Moreno’s hard-line stance to­ward Josh Hamil­ton, whose sub­stance-abuse re­lapse has trig­gered an ugly dis­pute be­tween the or­ga­ni­za­tion and the out­fielder, has put An­gels play­ers in an awk­ward po­si­tion.

Hamil­ton is a friend to many play­ers, a team­mate to all and a fel­low play­ers’ union mem­ber who, ac­cord­ing to an ar­bi­tra­tor, did not vi­o­late base­ball’s drug pol­icy and can­not be suspended.

Yet, Hamil­ton, who is re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing from right-shoul­der surgery in Hous­ton, has been os­tra­cized to the point in which he has not been is­sued a locker in the An­gel Sta­dium club­house and mer­chan­dise bear­ing his name and num­ber has been pulled from sta­dium team stores.

And it is clear to play­ers Moreno — the boss who signs their hefty pay­checks, the man they want to win a cham­pi­onship for — is the driv­ing force be­hind the anti-Hamil­ton sen­ti­ment.

“It doesn’t seem like any bridges are be­ing built — it seems like a fairly con­tentious sit­u­a­tion,” An­gels pitcher C.J. Wil­son, the club’s union rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said be­fore the An­gels’ 6-4 loss to the Kansas City Roy­als on Satur­day night.

“It’s def­i­nitely at a level right now. No one is talk­ing to us about it. We’re sup­posed to stay out of the loop. But it’s fairly ob­vi­ous what their in­ten­tions are.”

Wil­son was al­lud­ing to a grow­ing sense that Hamil­ton, who is owed $83 mil­lion over the next three years, will not play again for the An­gels. Moreno added fuel to that spec­u­la­tion when asked Fri­day whether Hamil­ton would play

an­other game for the club. “I will not say that,” he said.

Moreno said the team in­cluded lan­guage in Hamil­ton’s con­tract — prob­a­bly in the form of a moral con­duct code — that for­bade Hamil­ton from drink­ing or us­ing drugs and that he might chal­lenge Hamil­ton’s abil­ity to col­lect his full salary.

The union re­sponded by say­ing such lan­guage had not been ap­proved and it would “not su­per­sede the pro­vi­sions of the joint drug agree­ment and/or the ba­sic agree­ment.”

Wil­son said he agreed with columnists who have writ­ten the An­gels would be treat­ing Hamil­ton dif­fer­ently if he was play­ing like the five-time All-Star he was in Texas and not the dis­ap­point­ing and oft­in­jured player he’s been in Ana­heim, where Hamil­ton hit .255 with 31 homers in his first two sea­sons.

“Some of the com­men­ta­tors had a lot of in­sight — if the sit­u­a­tion was this, it would be turned around and be dif­fer­ent,” Wil­son said. “Josh went through the whole process with an ar­bi­tra­tor. It should just be about him re­hab­bing and get­ting healthy and play­ing base­ball again. The fact is, it’s not.”

Wil­son said teams add lan­guage to most con­tracts for­bid­ding play­ers from spe­cific ac­tiv­i­ties that might jeop­ar­dize their ca­reers. His in­cludes “a bevy of things,” from auto rac­ing to mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ing to spelunk­ing, or cave ex­plo­ration.

“But it’s my un­der­stand­ing that the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment takes prece­dent as it gov­erns all of base­ball on any con­tract,” Wil­son said.

Teams will some­times go to ex­treme lengths to en­force such lan­guage.

“When the An­gels first signed me they hired a pri­vate de­tec­tive to fol­low me around be­cause they were mad that I was rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles,” said Wil­son, who signed a five-year, $77.5-mil­lion deal be­fore 2012.

Told of the ac­cu­sa­tion, Gen­eral Manager Jerry Dipoto said, “That is 100% not true.”

When closer Hus­ton Street was asked in late March whether the Hamil­ton sit­u­a­tion would be a dis­trac­tion for the team, he said, “A lot of that is go­ing to de­pend on how Josh han­dles it.”

But Hamil­ton and his agent have been si­lent to this point, while the rhetoric from Moreno and the front of­fice has caused the big­gest stir.

“I’m like ev­ery­one else in this club­house, in limbo, wait­ing to see what hap­pens,” re­liever Joe Smith said. “But Josh is a part of this team. If and when he comes back, we will be here. He’ll be here try­ing to help us win. That’s the only way to look at it. You can’t get caught up in ev­ery­thing that’s be­ing thrown around.”

‘It doesn’t seem like any bridges are be­ing built — it seems like a fairly con­tentious sit­u­a­tion.’ C.J. W IL­SON , An­gels pitcher

Jae C. Hong As­so­ci­ated Press

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