Josh Hamilton’s future rests with arbitrator as panel splits on rehab treatment

An arbitrator will decide whether Josh Hamilton will be required to enter a rehabilitation program for substance abuse.
(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)

An arbitrator will have to break a split decision about how to handle Josh Hamilton.

A four-person panel, which was to determine whether the Angels outfielder should enter a rehabilitation program for substance abuse, is deadlocked in its opinion, The Times has learned.

The group is made up of two attorneys and two physicians — one of each appointed by Major League Baseball’s commissioner’s office and the players’ union. The panel first determines whether a player has violated MLB’s drug policy, then decides a course of treatment.

Because there is not an agreement on treatment, an arbitrator is expected to join the committee and break the tie, according to a person familiar with the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is not supposed to be discussed publicly.


Hamilton has struggled for more than a decade with cocaine and alcohol addictions. He met with MLB officials in New York on Feb. 25 about a relapse of substance abuse, The Times confirmed. His Angels teammates and coaches at spring training in Arizona have been bracing for more news ever since.

In addition to Hamilton’s health and well-being, a lot of money is a stake in baseball’s decision.

Hamilton is scheduled to make $25 million this season. He is in the third year of a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels. If he is sent into a rehabilitation program, he would be owed his full salary for 30 days, then half his salary for the next 30 days — a total of $6.2 million. If he is suspended and not in treatment, he would not be paid. However, it is unclear whether the Angelswould have to pay Hamilton at all if he previously entered a rehabilitation program that lasted at least 60 days.

Hamilton is known to have failed at least six drug tests as a Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguer, and he was suspended from baseball from 2004 to 2006. It is unclear how many of his minor league offenses came when he was listed on the Rays’ 40-man roster. MLB officials are considering whether to classify him as a fourth-time offender of its drug policy, the person with knowledge of the discussions said.

Violators face a range of penalties, starting at 15 to 25 games for a first offense, 25 to 50 games for a second offense, 50 to 75 games for a third offense and at least one full season for a fourth offense. Commissioner Rob Manfred would have the final say on the length of a suspension.

Hamilton overcame addictions to become a five-time All-Star with the Texas Rangers. He batted .305 and averaged 28 home runs and 101 runs batted in a season for the Rangers from 2008 to 2012. But he has been a bust in his two years in Anaheim and did not report with the Angels to spring training while rehabilitating from surgery on his right shoulder. He wasn’t expected to be ready to play for the Angels until at least May.


Also Wednesday, Tony Clark, executive director of the players’ association, said the union was investigating the source of leaks about Hamilton’s condition. and the New York Daily News, citing unidentified sources, reported last week Hamilton’s relapse involved cocaine and alcohol.

“Our concern about any confidential information that makes its way into the headlines is always significant,” said Clark, who met with Angels players before Wednesday’s workout. “As a result, we always do our due diligence in an effort to determine where that confidential information came from.”

Clark did not say whether those news reports were accurate. Clark said he had not spoken directly with Hamilton and would not discuss specifics of the case. “The process is underway,” Clark said, adding it was the union’s “responsibility to protect the player and his rights in the process.”

The union chief, who played 15 years in the big leagues, was more concerned with Hamilton as a person than a baseball player.

“What I hope for is support for Josh,” Clark said. “There are always baseball concerns. There are, more importantly, life concerns. We have protocols in place to handle the baseball-related issues. But I’m hopeful that anyone in the baseball family who finds himself in a tough spot gets support as a person beyond baseball.”

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