MLB officials believe Hamilton should be suspended, with the still-undetermined length falling somewhere between 25 games and one year. The union, however, is arguing for a minimal penalty, perhaps 15 games, with greater emphasis placed on a treatment program — during the first 30 days of which Hamilton would still receive his full salary.
At issue is whether Hamilton’s recent relapse, reported by CBS Sports to involve cocaine, constitutes a material violation of the drug treatment program under which Hamilton was reinstated to the sport in 2006. If it is determined that a violation has occurred, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred will have broad authority to determine the length of Hamilton’s suspension.
Now, the good news is that nobody’s yelling about throwing Hamilton in prison. Thirty-odd years ago in the spectacular peak of the JUST SAY NO Era, baseball players were getting thrown into prison. As ugly as this might become, a year-long suspension — presumably with the best rehab money can buy — is a hell of a lot better than six months in a federal penitentiary.
To some degree, it’s that horrible experience of the middle 1980s, with a parade of major leaguers, some of them big stars, testifying in public about their drug use, that led to the current policy regarding so-called "drugs of abuse." But of course the policy’s changed quite a lot in the last 10 years, and that’s what makes Hamilton’s case so confusing.
Craig Calcaterra has been … enthusiastic about this matter; among other things, Craig argues that because Hamilton suffers from addiction, he shouldn’t be suspended at all. Which I sorta get, and sorta don’t. If you think Craig is right, does that mean it is okay to suspend guys who use drugs but don’t have a real problem?
There will always be this uncomfortable dynamic because the union wants zero punishment, but maybe with treatment if there’s just no other way, while the owners want to avoid any public embarrassment and, ideally, not paying drug-users who aren’t helping their team.
All of which is coming into play with Hamilton. I’m betting on some sort of Grand Bargain here, with a short suspension, treatment, and some small cost savings for the Angels. They’re not getting out of that wildly ill-advised contract, though.