An arbitrator decided Friday that Josh Hamilton cannot be suspended after a recent self-reported relapse with alcohol and cocaine. The decision was severely criticized by both MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and the Angels.
His club is now compelled to pay Josh his 2015 salary entirely, although he was less productive than expected. Also, the MLB commissioner, who learned from Hamilton about his relapse, want that drug addition issues within the league are properly addressed.
Critics claim that the arbitrator was subjective due to Hamilton’s particular circumstances. The arbitrator may have been impressed by Hamilton’s overall level of cooperation, his recent history, and the fact that he did drugs for recreational purposes rather than trying to get a performance boost.
The Angels, that currently must still pay about $90 million to Hamilton, were appalled by the decision.
“It defies logic that Josh’s reported behavior is not a violation of his drug program,”
was John Carpino’s initial reaction.
But an hour later after his first statement, the club’s president acknowledged that Hamilton needed help and that the decision involved a person and a family, not just money. Yet, Jerry Dipoto, the Angels’ GM, reported that the team was “disappointed” with Josh for breaking an important commitment to himself, his teammates, his family, and fans.
Mr. Dipoto promised that the Angels would do whatever necessary to assure he gets proper help. He also disclosed that the club did not request Hamilton’s discipline.
The Angels however will have to cope with deep financial losses. This week’s decision is a second hit after Hamilton’s shoulder surgery in early February, which put him to rest indefinitely after barely beginning any baseball activities.
But because he won’t be suspended, the club must still pay him $23 million in salary, plus $2 million every year of $10 million which was the agreed signing bonus. So, a suspension would have brought the Angels some financial relief since they would not have to pay Hamilton’s salary during his suspension.
Moreover, the Angles can forfeit the remaining three years of the deal only if Hamilton gets convicted of a crime. They cannot release Hamilton since his contract is guaranteed. They cannot even trade him without his permission since there is a no-trade clause in his contract. On the other hand, few teams would want Hamilton under the current conditions.
The decision comes a month after Hamilton’s self-denunciation to Rob Manfred followed by a meeting with the MLB commissioner in New York. Soon after the meeting, a panel of four gathered to discuss the issue.
But since the two union representatives and two MLB representatives failed to reach a consensus, an arbitrator stepped in and ruled that Manfred had no reason to discipline Hamilton.
Nevertheless, Manfred will publicly readdress the issue again next week in Seattle. He also intended to attend the Angels’ last game in the season-opening series.
The Angels haven’t seen Hamilton this spring at all since he entered rehab after his shoulder surgery. Sources familiar with the matter said that the club doesn’t even have a locker for Hamilton in their clubhouse.
The Angels explained that Hamilton needs to take his time to recover, rather than force himself to take part in the spring training session held in Arizona.
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