I have to admit, I have been feeling very conflicted about what has been happening with Angels outfield Josh Hamilton. It bothers me to hear all of the rhetoric being spouted from the Angels management, but I am comforted by the assurance from his teammates that he is still a member of the team. If you didn’t know, Hamilton has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, but has been clean for the last few years. He is a prolific hitter, or at least, he was a prolific hitter before he signed with the Angels in 2012. His numbers have been down since and has only been hitting .255 since joining the team. Considering the amount of money he signed for ($125 million, to be exact), those are not the number you want to see. Then, before spring training it was revealed that he had relapsed. He is currently recovering from a shoulder injury and not expected to play until May.
Say what you will, but the Angels knew of his problems long before he was signed. After the relapse, MLB decided he had not violated the joint drug agreement and was clear to play. However, the Angels are singing a different song. They claim that there were special clauses in his contract that would make his contract basically null and void if he suffered a relapse. I can understand their logic behind this move; after all, no one wants to pay a guy who might be hooked on drugs and not playing. The Players Association says that not letting Hamilton play is unjust and will surely file a suit if the Angels don’t let him play. Arte Moreno, the team’s owner, refused to say if Hamilton would ever play for the team again. His silence speaks loudly.
One player who is not silent is Angels lefty CJ Wilson. Wilson, who is the team’s representative for the MLBPA, has stated that if Hamilton was playing well, none of this would even be happening. If he was hitting .300, like he was signed to do, the organization would welcome him back with open arms.”Literally everything is different if you’re good. If you’re good, you get away with everything. That’s all there is to it”, Wilson told reporters. And he’s right. That’s how sports work. Fans, owners, managers, etc. will forgive and forget if you are producing on the field.
But this puts us in a moral quandary: do we let Hamilton play or do we insist he get treatment before he steps back onto the diamond? And, if we do let him play, what happens if he doesn’t play well? If he doesn’t play well, the team looks like a fool, but he does play well, no one will care about his past drug usage. However, if the Angels let him play and we find out he isn’t healthy mentally, they will look like buttholes for letting him play. Really, the Angels are in a no-win situation.
I am going to play owner/president/manager for a second. If I ran the organization, I would not spout out stupid things. I would condemn his behavior, but I would make sure everyone knew his health was the most important thing. Then, I’d suck it up and pay him the money he is owed. I knew full well of his struggles when I signed him, so the whole “fool me once” thing goes into play. But, I will only let him play with the agreement that he get therapy. If he wants to play, he needs to get his mind right. He is only human, after all. MLB says he is allowed to play, so play he shall.
Hamilton did well in Texas because they gave him a structured system that did not allow him to have the leeway to use drugs. He flourished under this system. My guess is that he works best when teams apply the whole “ideal hands do the devil’s handiwork” adage. Hamilton needs help and the Angels are only making it worse. Sometimes, athletes need a kick in the can and sometimes athletes need a butt pat. I think Hamilton needs a butt pat.
Personally, I think the rhetoric the Angels is using is all wrong. It makes them come off like they don’t care about Hamilton’s personal well-being. As an organization, the well-being of your players is far more important than the results they produce on the field. The Angels have plenty of talented men on the team who can pick up the slack while Hamilton gets better. You signed him to a contract knowing full well of his issues, so guess what? You have to deal with the fallout. Don’t try and talk your way out of this one because it just makes you look like a turd. And stop saying these things publicly. It does no one any good to hear you say these things. I’d be willing to bet Hamilton is hearing these things and is probably not looking forward to playing for you.