Last week it was revealed Anaheim Angels star outfielder Josh Hamilton had suffered a serious drug and alcohol relapse. The 33-year-old Hamilton has a history of drug addiction and alcohol abuse, leading to suspensions that cost him more than three years of play while in the minors. Hamilton self reported this latest setback involving both drugs and alcohol to the league office.
Because this is his first significant relapse in the majors, he was initially entered into the league’s drug treatment program as a first time offender. Hamilton had not suffered a major relapse in over a decade; however, he has had two alcohol related incidents in 2009 and 2012 in the majors for which he was not disciplined.
A firestorm kicked off last week when it was revealed by the Los Angeles Times and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that Hamilton was called to the league office after he reported the lapse so he could attend a disciplinary hearing for something “worse” than performance enhancing drugs. Many speculated that could only mean Hamilton was using cocaine again. CBS Sports and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman later broke the news of the drug and alcohol relapse. One thing to note is there was no failed test.
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Hamilton faces a likely 25 game suspension starting at the beginning of the regular season if it’s decided this is his first offense. After a four-person panel consisting of two lawyers and two doctors could not agree how to assess Hamilton, an independent arbitrator was called in to decide Hamilton’s fate for the 2015 season. The arbitrator may rule the star outfielder is suspended for the entire year if it is ruled as his fourth offense. A decision is expected to come as early as next week.
Hamilton was drafted out of a Raleigh, North Carolina high school in 1999 by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays as the first overall pick. Hamilton was projected to be the next Mickey Mantle and lead the D-Rays to a championship. Living up to the hype initially, in 2001 Hamilton was named the best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America. But soon injuries and drug abuse began to hamper his promising career.
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Hamilton missed all of 2003 through 2005 because of his rampant drug abuse, particularly of crack cocaine. It wasn’t until the end of the 2006 minor league season that Hamilton was reinstated into baseball. One condition for reinstatement was Hamilton must take three drug tests a week. Hamilton went into graphic detail about his drug abuse in his 2008 book Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back.
Hamilton finally made his major league debut in 2007 with the Cincinnati Reds on April 2nd, receiving a 22 second standing ovation from the home crowd. In 90 games with the Reds he hit 19 home runs, 47 RBIs with a bating average of .292. In 2008 Hamilton became a star. Named to his first All-Star team as a member of the Texas Rangers, Hamilton put on a show during the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium mashing a record 26 home runs in the first round of the Derby. Hamilton suffered through an injury riddled 2009 campaign hitting just .268 in 89 games.
In 2010 Hamilton flourished when he was moved to left field. The star outfielder won the American League batting title with a .359 average, 32 home runs, and 100 RBIs, and was honored with the AL MVP. In the playoffs that year Hamilton was named the ALCS MVP leading the Rangers to their first World Series appearance ever. Hamilton registered a small drop in production in 2011, hitting .298 with 25 home runs and 94 RBIs in 121 games, but it was still good enough to get the Rangers back to the World Series. Hamilton came back with a vengeance in 2012, smacking 43 home runs, driving in 128 RBIs, and hitting for a .285 batting average. The star slugger finished fifth in MVP voting in the American League that season.
His career took a downward turn after the 2012 regular season. During the 2012 playoffs, Hamilton struck out during a key rally against the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card game. In December of that year it was revealed Hamilton had suffered a minor relapse, when he got drunk during a night out with friends. Later in the month Hamilton inked a major deal with division rival Anaheim Angels for five years worth $125 million.
So far in Anaheim, Hamilton has been a bust. While Hamilton had 21 home runs and 79 RBIs in his first season, he hit a paltry .250 in 151 games. Last season Hamilton saw his batting average improve a bit, reaching .263, but with just 10 home runs and 43 RBIs. Hamilton missed significant time due to a thumb injury, playing only 89 games in 2014. The slugging outfielder also struggled mightily in the ALDS, going 0-13 in the series. The Kansas City Royals swept his team in three games.
Hamilton needs to get the help he deserves. He’s proven he can come back before, as the man himself once said: “I’m proof that hope is never lost.”