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Josh Hamilton’s Road Back Is Blocked by Arte Moreno

The Angels and their high-priced outfielder are locked in an ugly dispute that goes way beyond baseball

Josh Hamilton

The Angels have turned their back on Josh Hamilton. Is it too late for the team to save face?

Thomas B. Shea/Getty

Words to describe Arte Moreno in his handling of the Josh Hamilton case: Insensitive, wildly out of step, resentful, myopic, penny-wise and pound foolish, with an emphasis on the foolish.

Arte Moreno is a fine businessman. There is evidence. He has a net worth of nearly $1.5 billion, after all. He’s also a man with a club that’s graced the World Series all of once in 55 tries, that one time coming just before he took over the team in 2003. His Angels have appeared in one postseason this decade, getting swept by a supposedly inferior Kansas City Royals team in the 2014 American League Division Series.

In addition to his Josh Hamilton problem, Moreno is at the center of a stadium dispute. He’s been sued by the City of Anaheim. He presided over a rat infestation. Some might say he has Dodgers-envy, or perhaps more specifically, long-unrealized dreams of a Hollywood-like storybook season. Well, the reviews are in on this latest performance, and they’re not good.

Yahoo’s Tim Brown compared the Angels’ treatment of Hamilton to the Yankees’ dealings with Alex Rodriguez – unfavorably.

The Orange County Register‘s Jeff Miller called the team “at best, badly misinformed and, at worst, totally clueless.”

Cliff Corcoran, in a Sports Illustrated piece headlined, “Response of Angels, MLB to Hamilton decision is shocking and saddening,” wrote this:

“The Angels signed Hamilton well aware of his dark history of drug and alcohol abuse, which nearly derailed his career a decade ago. They are also well aware of his largely successful struggle to remain sober in the intervening years, and I would hope they are aware of just how difficult that struggle is and will always be for Hamilton and others like him. The only possible reason I can think of that the Angels could be upset in the light of Friday’s [April 3] news is that they were hoping to be relieved of some of the $84.2 million commitment they owe Hamilton over the next three seasons, but to express that frustration publicly and as plainly as [club president John Carpino] did is beyond the pale.”

Ken Rosenthal was “appalled” that the news of Hamilton’s relapse and possible suspension ever became public in the first place, noting that a player is promised confidentiality under the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement (which was reached by collective bargaining between the player’s union and Major League Baseball in 2011), hinting the Angels were the source of the leaks.

I laid out my feelings about Hamilton based in part on my own experience in recovery earlier, and stand by those sentiments today. Since I understand what addiction can do to those around the individual in question, I actually do get where Moreno is coming from. But I also feel obligated to call out the Angels’ owner for his behavior. His behavior.

MLB and the MLBPA negotiated the JDA five years ago for just this type of situation. With the exception of the leaks and Moreno’s talk of legal remedies, the system worked perfectly, and there’s not a whole lot that’s new here.

Moreno can say it’s not about the money all he likes, and I’m not suggesting we sic the thought police on the man, but if he tries any trickery in terms of the player’s salary or goes up against the powerful player’s union in court, he’s going to lose. And lose badly, swept out of the building like his Angels of Anaheim were last October. More importantly, he’ll lose the battle of public opinion.

Look, Hamilton’s drug and alcohol abuse is a legitimate problem, but the self-reporting occurred in the dead of winter. He’s not missing work because of it. He’s unavailable because of a work-related injury, to his non-throwing right shoulder. And unlike his wounded mates and big leaguers generally, he isn’t welcome to rehab with his club. Hamilton wasn’t absent without leave during a pennant race; he was locked out at the start of Spring Training.

I’m not minimizing the relapse by the young man – nor would I ever – but just exactly who is leaving whom high and dry here?

If not for the off-base tactics of Moreno, stung as much by his own contract offerings in exchange for a .255 batting average, 31 homers and 123 RBIs for two years of play, Hamilton might be nearing a return to the workplace, healthy and ready to redeem himself. Sober.

Instead, an emphasis on the foolish. And this from a man whose first order of business in Anaheim was to ceremoniously lower beer prices.

In This Article: Baseball, MLB, sports

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