Last week, news broke that Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton self-reported a relapse in his drug addiction, on the heels of a would-be positive test. Hamilton, who has suffered well-documented substance abuse throughout his career, reported that he had used alcohol and cocaine during the offseason, violating his own reinstatement and MLB’s drug policy. Now, his fate lies in an arbitrator’s hands.
According to a report by ESPN, a four-person panel meant to decide Hamilton’s future – two doctors and two lawyers, appointed by the commissioner’s office and the MLBPA – could not decide how Hamilton should be reprimanded. As a result, an independent arbitrator will do so.
How much is at stake? Only millions of dollars and, perhaps, the Angels’ season. While Los Angeles has some options to replace Hamilton, there’s a big difference between losing him for a couple months and losing him for the season. According to that ESPN report, the arbitrator must decide whether Hamilton will be sent to a rehab facility or simply suspended outright. If suspended, Hamilton forfeits his salary for the entirety of the suspension. If he is sent to rehab, he will receive his full salary for the first month, and half of his salary for the second month.
In addition, Major League Baseball must decide whether to treat Hamilton as a fourth-time offender or not. If it does, the penalty will be at least a one-year suspension; if not, Hamilton may be looking at “only” 50-100 games.
While Hamilton’s health and well-being is obviously first and foremost for himself, the Angels, and the league, his future as a player also hangs in the balance. Hopefully for Hamilton, he receives a final chance to play the game he loves, and makes the most of it.