MLBPA supports Josh Hamilton

ByJerry Crasnick ESPN logo
Friday, March 6, 2015

The Major League Baseball Players Association sprang to the defense of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton on Thursday, issuing a statement critical of news leaks that it calls "cowardly" and intended to hurt Hamilton "personally and professionally."

"It is regrettable that people who want to see Josh Hamilton hurt personally and professionally have started leaking information about the status of his treatment program and the confidential processes under our Joint Drug Agreement," said the union statement. "These anonymous leaks are cowardly, undermine the integrity of our collectively bargained agreements and in some instances have been wholly inaccurate.

"The Major League Baseball Players Association will use every right we have under the collective bargaining agreement to make sure Josh gets the help he needs, and the fair and confidential process to which he is entitled."

Hamilton, a five-time All-Star who signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels in December 2012, suffered a relapse involving the use of cocaine and alcohol in the offseason, according to an ESPN source and media reports. He met with MLB officials in New York last week as a precursor to possible disciplinary action.

The commissioner's office and the MLBPA each appointed a lawyer and a physician to a committee to determine whether the drug policy was violated and decide on a course of treatment, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The committee deadlocked on the course of treatment, necessitating the involvement of an arbitrator who will break the split decision, a source told the Times.

Hamilton, 33, has a well-documented history of substance-abuse problems dating to his days in the minor leagues, when he was suspended from baseball from February 2004 to June 2006 for issues related to cocaine and alcohol addiction.

One of the conditions of Hamilton's reinstatement in 2006 was that he undergo drug testing three times a week. He had alcohol relapses in 2009 and 2012 but recovered to win the American League MVP Award with the Texas Rangers in 2010 and appear in consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011.

The arbitrator's decision on a rehabilitation program will affect the $25 million Hamilton is owed this season, according to the Times report. He would be paid his full salary for 30 days and half his salary for the next 30 days ($6.2 million total) if in rehab. He would not be paid if suspended and not in treatment.

In addition, MLB is deciding whether to classify Hamilton as a fourth-time offender, the source told the Times, which could increase a suspension from 50-75 games to at least one full season.

Hamilton slugged 43 homers and drove in 128 runs in 2012, his final season with the Rangers. But he has been a major disappointment since signing his mega-deal with the Angels. He appeared in only 89 games last season because of injuries and hit .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs.

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