The more I think about it, the more appalled I am that we even knew that Josh Hamilton faced a possible suspension from baseball.
Not that I would have declined to report that he met with league officials in New York about a disciplinary issue, or that he suffered a relapse involving cocaine, if I had been first with either piece of information.
Both developments qualified as news, and it is a reporter’s job to convey information, not withhold it. But the leaks, wherever they came from, violated the confidentiality that players are promised under the Joint Drug Agreement. And now that an arbitrator has ruled that Hamilton did not violate the JDA by voluntarily informing baseball of his relapse, who will apologize to him for the public embarrassment and humiliation he has endured?
Hamilton will not be suspended; the Angels slugger did nothing wrong according to the procedures set forth by the JDA. Baseball disagreed with the arbitrator’s decision and said in a statement that it will “seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the program in the collective-bargaining process.”
While baseball is at it, it also should address deficiencies in the manner in which Hamilton was possibly treated by his team and by his sport.
It seems odd that Hamilton could admit to a relapse without violating his treatment program, but he had two known alcohol relapses during his time with the Rangers that did not constitute violations. Sources told FOX Sports last month that Hamilton came forward only once he believed a positive test was inevitable, but perhaps his legal team demonstrated that he could have waited for the next test and passed without anyone ever knowing what had happened. In which case, his coming forward could be viewed as an act of compliance, a call for help.
Even if the arbitrator had determined that Hamilton indeed violated his program, the entire matter should have remained private, at least until the moment commissioner Rob Manfred issued his suspension. But that’s not what happened, and make no mistake -- Hamilton was wronged in the process.
So, who was responsible for the leaks?
As a reporter, I know that information comes from everywhere, and not always obvious sources. The Angels, however, are the one entity that stood to benefit if Hamilton was suspended and forfeited a portion of his $23 million salary in 2015. He also is guaranteed $30 million in both 2016 and ’17, and considering his declining performance in recent seasons, the Angels surely would love to escape that obligation as well.
The initial report on Hamilton from the Los Angeles Times said he was meeting with baseball about a disciplinary issue and that the team was bracing for possible penalties. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that Hamilton was in New York but said nothing else. A scramble then ensued to report why the meeting took place, and both CBSSports.com and New York Daily News reported that his relapse involved cocaine.
I’m not sure the Angels acted properly in confirming Hamilton’s initial meeting in New York. And the club went public again Friday, saying in a statement, “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 has made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans.”
This, for a player who was deemed not to have violated his treatment program.
I understand why baseball pursued the matter; if Hamilton had indeed violated the program, then it would have been only proper for the sport to enforce its policy. But baseball, too, needs to take responsibility for the way Hamilton was cornered publicly.
He deserved better as a recovering addict. He deserved better as a major leaguer. He deserved better as a human being.