For those of you who may not know Josh Hamilton, he is a major league baseball player for the Los Angeles Angels. He also has a well chronicled history of addiction. When he was first discovered he was touted as the next Mickey Mantle. He is a talented athlete with amazing physical skills. Like many people with addiction who have employment issues, it almost cost him his baseball career. It took him some time in treatment but he was eventually reinstated to major league baseball.
Josh recently had a relapse that he self admitted to Major League Baseball and The Angels. Major league baseball and the Angels wanted to suspend him for 81 games which is half the season. An arbitrator was hired to hear his case. Josh’s case hinged on what constituted a violation of the drug program. Under baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement, an admission of drug use or a refusal to take a test constitutes a positive result. The failure to comply with the drug-treatment program – which Josh has been in for nearly a decade following long battles with cocaine and alcohol – was not undone by Hamilton’s episode, the arbitrator ruled.
Here was MLB’s statement after the decision, “The Office of the Commissioner disagrees with the decision, and will seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the Program in the collective bargaining process.” The Angels released the following 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 made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans. We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family.” That comment is obscene. First of all, he did exactly what he was supposed to do and that is take responsibility for his actions and continue his recovery. Secondly, the Angels now have to pay him $23 million dollars in salary. The Angels are not concerned about his or anyone’s well-being but their own.
One of his teammates took exception with the Angels comment and stood up for Josh. C.J. Wilson stated, ” the statement was “kind of disheartening.” He clarified, saying, “The statement had multiple phases. I’m just going to focus on the last part of it, which was, ‘We are focused on Josh and his family.’ That’s the part that I agree with.” Now the angels owner, Arte Moreno, has now banned Josh from the locker room and they have removed all merchandise pertaining to him from the ball park. The owner is basically snubbing his nose at the arbitrators decision.
Does anyone believe if Josh had cancer that this would be happening? The viewpoint that addiction is willful is alive and well. Despite all the emerging evidence to the contrary, addiction, by most, is still believed to be behavioral in its origin. Despite all of the brain research and biology linked to family, people believe it is still a matter of choice. Until relapse by addicted people is understood as a symptom and not a willful choice there will be little progress in helping the addicted person. The one person in this situation that seemed to get it was the arbitrator who appeared to understand one time use is part of the addiction and not a failure in recovery.
The other reality of addiction is how addiction has stolen the skills of Hamilton. He also has been injured frequently in the past two-year and has not played well or at all. Addiction and age has caught up with Hamilton. He is now expendable. At age 33, his skills are not what they were 10 years ago. His addiction has accelerated this fact as well. Hamilton does not need baseball to stay clean and sober. Baseball does not need Josh Hamilton either. There are plenty of players to take his place. Arte Moreno, the Angels owner, had a chance to earn his halo in this situation, instead he grew horns.