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Josh Hamilton won’t be disciplined by MLB; Angels surprised

April 4, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) — The decision of an arbitrator not to discipline Los Angeles Angels player Josh Hamilton for his latest problems with cocaine and alcohol has surprised and disappointed Major League Baseball and even his own team.

Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said he disagrees with the ruling by an arbitrator appointed under MLB’s joint drug program with the players’ association. MLB said earlier Friday that it disagreed with the ruling.

Hamilton, a five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP, has played poorly during the first two years of his five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels, who still owe him $83 million in salary over the next three years.

He is subject to the treatment program for prior violations involving cocaine stretching back a decade.

The Angels’ publicly stated support for punishment of Hamilton is the strongest evidence yet of the club’s disenchantment with the high-priced outfielder, who has been injured for long stretches of two largely miserable seasons.

“Do I agree with the decision that was made by the treatment board? Absolutely not,” Dipoto said before the Angels’ exhibition game against the Dodgers. “But that’s not my decision to make.”

In a statement, MLB said it will “seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the program in the collective bargaining process.”

Hamilton self-reported a new issue this year involving both cocaine and alcohol, a person familiar with the case said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because those details were not made public.

MLB said it took “the position that Hamilton violated his treatment program and is subject to discipline by the commissioner.”

A four-person treatment board created by the joint drug program, which includes one lawyer and one medical representative each appointed by management and the players’ association, deadlocked 2-2 on whether Hamilton’s conduct was a violation of his treatment program and was subject to discipline. That created the need for an arbitrator to break the tie.

The arbitrator said only that Hamilton was not subject to discipline and did not give reasons for the decision, the person familiar with the case said.

Hamilton, who turns 34 in May, won the AL MVP award with Texas during a six-year stretch as one of baseball’s best all-around players for the Rangers and Cincinnati Reds. But his career headed downhill in his final season in Texas, and declined further in Los Angeles.

He played in just 89 games because of injuries and struggled at the plate throughout last season, culminating in an 0-for-13 performance in the three-game loss to Kansas City in the AL Division Series.

After resting his ailing right shoulder throughout the offseason in the team’s unsuccessful attempt to avoid surgery, Hamilton had surgery in February that will prevent him from playing until at least May.

Hamilton was the first pick in the 1999 amateur draft out of high school, but his rapid rise through the minor leagues was sidetracked by substance abuse beginning in 2001.

He barely played baseball for four years, but found stability off the field with sobriety counseling, a wife and a family that now includes four children.

A year after resuming his career in the minors, he played his rookie season in the major league with Cincinnati in 2007 and was traded to Texas in the offseason.

He was an immediate hit with the Rangers, leading the league with 130 RBIs and earning a starting spot in the All-Star game in 2008. He won the AL batting title in 2010, and he was selected the AL Championship Series MVP while leading the Rangers to their first World Series appearance.

But even during his success, Hamilton had problems. He acknowledged a relapse in early 2009 after he was photographed getting drunk in a bar in Arizona, and he held a news conference in 2012 to apologize for another night of drinking.


AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham contributed from Anaheim, California.

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