Josh Hamilton, the American League’s poster child for the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, is in the news again. Apparently, the Los Angeles Angels’ slugging outfielder slipped off the wagon sometime earlier this year and the league is trying to determine what action they will take in his case. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports a decision in the case ‘ could come as early as next week’ and the Los Angeles Times reported an ‘arbitrator has been appointed to determine whether Hamilton should enter a rehabilitation program following a drug relapse.’
Apparently a four member panel, appointed by MLB, made up of two doctors and two lawyers, could not agree on whether he should go into rehab, so the matter was turned over to an arbitrator for review.
Hamilton’s story is a sad one. He is not accused of using performance enhancing drugs, his abuse is apparently due to a personal addiction to alcohol and drugs, a problem which has plagued him since a car accident in 2001 in which he was injured.
Hamilton was born May 21, 1981, in Raleigh, NC and drafted at age 18 by the Tampa Bay, then Devil Rays, number 1 in the first round of the 1999 Amateur Draft. He signed with the Rays on June 30, 1999 and received a $3.98 million signing bonus. In 1999 in the Rookie League he hit .347 at Princeton and hit .302 in Charleston in A ball in 2000.
After the car accident and failing a drug test, he was out of baseball for three years from 2003 until 2006 trying to get his life back together. After he was left off the Rays 40 man roster in 2006, the Chicago Cubs drafted him in the Rule 5 draft and, the same day, traded him to the Cincinatti Reds.
He made his big league debut with the Reds on April 2, 2007 and played 90 games with them that year, hitting .292 with 19 homers and 47 RBI’s. At the end of that season, he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Danny Herrera and Edinson Volquez and played in 156 games for Texas, hitting .304 with 32 homers and 130 RBI’s.
Things were looking good for Hamilton’s career at that time but, in 2009, he suffered a rib and abdominal strain that kept him out for much of the season. He hit only .268 with 10 homers and 54 RBI’s in just 89 games. 2010 was his break out season as he hit .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBI’s and had a slugging percentage of .633. He won the American League batting title, the MVP and the ALCS MVP award.
He hit .298 and .285 in 2011 and 2012 with 25 and 43 homers and 94 and 128 RBI’s in the two years. He was granted Free Agency on October 29, 2012 and signed a $124. million contract through 2017 with the Los Angeles Angels.
In his first year with the Angels, he played in 151 games but only averaged .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBI’s. Last year, he played in just 89 games and hit just .263 with 10 homers and only 44 RBI’s. The Angels have certainly not gotten their $17. million per year out of him in his first two years and now he approaches his third season when his salary jumps to $25.4 million and he may miss part or all of the year.
The Major League Players Association is making noises, complaining about the MLB’s releasing information about the situation and about Hamilton’s rights stating in part that they will ‘ use every right we have under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to make sure that Josh gets the help he needs, and the fair and confidential process to which he is entitled.’
Hopefully, this is one time that the Owners and Players can come together to ensure that Josh Hamilton gets the treatment he needs to get through this current crisis and, hopefully, get back to playing the game at the level he is shown he is capable of.