Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will not be suspended by Major League Baseball. The question then is, “What now?”
According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times early Friday, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Josh Hamilton will not be suspended by Major League Baseball. This after Hamilton fell back into his addictive past with drugs and alcohol during the offseason.
Hamilton self-reported the violation of his drug treatment–a policy he’s been under since he returned to baseball after first falling into drugs and alcohol–among other things–while playing minor league baseball in the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays organization.
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By all accounts he’d been on the road to recovery and sobriety since returning to the game in which he’s found great success his whole life. The Angels obviously didn’t see these issues returning when they signed him to a gargantuan five-year/$125 million three offseasons ago.
Hamilton nearly lost his wife and life then, but recovered to become one of the best hitters in baseball for the Texas Rangers. Who can forget his amazing performance in the 2008 All-Star Home Run Derby?
Or who can even forget the four home run performance he had against the Baltimore Orioles in 2012?
He is a freakish talent, hence his being drafted No. 1 overall in the 1999 MLB entry draft. And why he was such a prized player when he was made available in the Rule 5 draft in 2006 when he was selected by the Chicago Cubs and then traded to the Cincinnati Reds.
And it further explains why the Angels were willing to give him a five-year deal all the while knowing he was still a potential hazard because of his troubled past.
He has been inconsistent, though, with the Angels when in the lineup. Just staying in the lineup has been tough for Hamilton, though, as he’s also struggled with injuries, including the current shoulder injury he’s battled this Spring–when he hasn’t even been with the Angels during Spring Training.
Hamilton, 33, has hit just 31 home runs and driven in only 123 runners in two mostly disappointing seasons for the Halos. And based on a statement made by the Angels following the no suspension announcement, it seems clear the Angels have grown weary of Hamilton.
The Angels had relented of commenting on Hamilton as Major League Baseball worked through the process of determining Hamilton’s fate. They broke their silence as a result of the announcement, but some analysts are already saying that was a mistake.
As Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote Friday, Hamilton deserved better than the public trial he faced over the past few months. The Angels handled the past few months the right way, but were quick to call him out once given the appropriate opportunity.
It’s probably not a surprise. And perhaps they are correct. But they still have him under contract for the next three seasons. Remember baseball contracts, unlike those in baseball, are guaranteed. Whether deserved or not, Hamilton will continue to collect paychecks from Angels owner Arturo Moreno.
He may not have to show up to the ballpark at all to do so. Given the Angels’ quick comments on Friday, they may try to keep him away. But a bigger question still persists: What now?
Not what now? for his baseball career. We’ve seen that when fully healthy and sober, Hamilton is one of the best talents the much-maligned game has seen in this current generation.
No, what now for Hamilton as a man who struggles greatly with sobriety?
Does he go to rehab on his own? Does he rehab his marriage again?
He and wife Katie are born-again Christians who used their faith to get through the initial ordeals. It was Katie, in fact, who has been so loving and compassionate to her husband and kept the marriage intact, but there’s only so much a couple can take before the wheels fall off. The struggles are real. They have four daughters together. They have more than enough money to survive him never playing baseball again. He doesn’t need baseball for the financial gain.
But he may need it as a means to help him fight through his difficulties. He may need it to feel alive in a way that drugs and alcohol promise but never actually provide.
The sad reality for him at least is that baseball does not need him. The Angels don’t need him. They were baseball’s best regular season team in 2014. They’ll be okay without him.
But will he be okay without it, without them?
Hopefully. That seems to be all we can say.
Based on the Angels’ comments Friday, that may be his only option. The reality is that Hamilton needs to live in a world where he is not held up by his baseball talent, but instead held up by people who truly love him and care for him.
His wife Katie has been that for him in the past. If he’s to make it through this latest ordeal, it’s probably going to have to be the direction they take again.
Maybe for his betterment, Hamilton has played his last game on a major league diamond.
Either way, we can only hope whatever happens next is what’s best for him.
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