The ruling of an arbitrator that Josh Hamilton‘s recent behavior did not violate his treatment program has clearly surprised MLB and the Angels Front Office. Jerry Dipoto issued this statement after todays ruling.
"“The Office of the Commissioner informed the Angels that an arbitrator determined Josh Hamilton’s recent conduct did not violate his treatment program under MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and therefore the Commissioner is not permitted to suspend or otherwise discipline Hamilton. The Club had no involvement in the proceeding or the ruling. The Angels have serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment which he made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family.”"
That quote discusses the concerns the Angels have with Josh but don’t indicate a way to handle the situation. As it stands, he will be welcomed back to the club as if nothing ever happened in the eyes of MLB and the Angels management, although it appears they aren’t happy about it. The fans do not have to follow the MLB guidelines and are likely to react to Hamilton even more harshly than they have in the past. Without any punishment they will see a man getting paid tens of millions of dollars, who hasn’t earned that money and has been given preferential treatment. That combination will likely cause a lot of heckling and boos when he plays out of town. It may not be much better for him in Anaheim.
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Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t seem any more pleased with the decision than the fans or Dipoto. His office issued their own statement saying.
"“The issue of whether Josh Hamilton violated his treatment program was submitted to the Treatment Board established under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The MLB representatives and the Players Association representatives on the Treatment Board deadlocked on that issue, with MLB taking the position that Hamilton violated his treatment program and is subject to discipline by the Commissioner. Under the procedures of the Program, an outside arbitrator was appointed to break the tie, and the arbitrator ruled that Josh Hamilton’s conduct did not violate his treatment program. As a result of that decision, the Office of the Commissioner is not permitted to suspend or impose any discipline on Hamilton. The Office of the Commissioner disagrees with the decision, and will seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the Program in the collective bargaining process.”"
Not exactly kind words for a player who they were wanting to help with his issues. It’s clear that they were expecting to impose a suspension on Hamilton and the Angels were going about business with that same expectation. It could have an impact on the teams plans to extend Closer Huston Street. It may also impact the clubs potential moves come the trade deadline since Hamilton will be paid his entire salary of $23 million.
Alden Gonzalez tweeted out the most telling statement which came from Angels President John Carpino.
The tension between the team and Hamilton will be a definite storyline to watch as Hamilton recovers from his shoulder surgery and becomes ready to play.
At the moment the biggest concern about this mess is that Josh may not be receiving the help he needs to tackle whatever substance abuse issues still haunt him. It was expected that the league would have mandated a rehab facility or program would have to be undertaken. Now he just goes back to work with no apparent legal or disciplinary troubles and whatever his personal battles are, they are left to him and him alone to seek help with. Given that us fans don’t know the details, we can all hope that he reaches out for whatever help he needs and finds a successful way to live with them as a responsible man.
If he comes back to work in the batters box and continues to struggle, the Angels will be left with a difficult situation given his salary. But, he will face a bigger challenge as a fan base who already looks at him as a disappointment may turn on him with further resentment as they see a player who doesn’t deserve what he’s been given both in terms of money and justice. His hope personally will depend upon his actions to seek help and his hope professionally will depend upon a quick return to playing good baseball. This ruling puts his future in his hands.