Josh Hamilton’s in Trouble, but Does it Even Matter to the Angels?
By Mike Greyshock
Today on Out of Left Field; Josh Hamilton is whisked away to New York at the command of MLB to discuss discipline for a mysterious violation. Fans are held by intrigue as the team maneuvers to handle the repercussions from what is being kept quiet for the time.
Yes, the soap opera of Josh Hamilton has reached a new level this sweeps season. The LA Times has reported that he is in New York for a meeting with Major League Baseball officials to discuss a disciplinary matter. Details are not known at this time but Jerry Dipoto confirmed the meeting and Hamilton’s agent, Michael Moye, is reportedly not returning messages. The obvious conclusion to make is that this would be over a drug related issue, as his history of abuse and relapses have been well documented. But a tweet by Ken Rosenthal suggests that the matter may be more serious.
Ken Rosenthal was asking about PEDs, but Hamilton has never been known for that. Sadly, he has been known for serious issues with cocaine and alcohol. That could be the “worse” being referred to by Rosenthal’s source. Or, it could be a number of other things. It’s all speculation at this point, but we should find out soon.
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Hamilton is already sitting out spring training as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Unlike most players, his recovery wasn’t with the team but was taking place at a friends ranch in Texas according to the LA Times. The only certainty at this point is that the Angels will be without Hamilton for some time. How far into the season is the big question. The “worse” could imply that the team may even have grounds for voiding his contract, but again it’s speculation based off of a report we rarely see in baseball, let alone with one of the marquee names.
A question for fans to consider is if it even matters that Josh Hamilton will be absent from an undetermined number of games. For a time their was no hitter more dangerous or impactful in the box as Hamilton. Angels fans have never seen that player in his two years with the team. Instead, we’ve suffered through a .251 batting average with 266 strikeouts in those two seasons. His replacements, for however long he should be away, look capable of outproducing those results.
Matt Joyce will undoubtedly see the majority of playing time in left field. He’s played 1,792 inning there over his career and had an OPS+ of 111 last season. Collin Cowgill will probably be a platoon partner with Joyce. He filled in during Hamilton’s injury last season and produced a league average bat with good baserunning skills and a positive defensive WAR. Fangraphs Steamer projections for Joyce in 2015 are for a wRC+ of 111. Cowgill’s Steamer projection is for a 0.2 WAR on the season and that’s a typically conservative projection for the 28-year-old outfielder. Hamilton’s Steamer projection is for a 106 wRC+ and a 1.6 WAR. Angels fans would be happy to see those numbers from Hamilton but it’s become a skeptical proposition.
With Joyce and Cowgill platooning in left field and with sometime at DH, their production is likely to be very near (or better) to what Hamilton would have provided. The Hamilton Rangers fans knew would be dearly missed, the Hamilton Angels fans have come to know won’t be. He never even hit a home run in Anaheim last season. The Angels brass may be looking at this as a positive, he won’t have to be paid for the games he’s suspended (if he’s suspended). And, although it may be a long-shot, it’s possible that they could even try to void the remainder of his contract depending on whatever this violation turns out to be.
We can speculate on many things at this point and try to look at positive effects for the team, but hopefully we all remember that Hamilton is a man. A man with a family and people who love and care for him. We can put baseball aside and hope the best for him as he struggles with what is a trying time in a life which has already seen so many.