Angels’ Josh Hamilton meets with MLB officials about disciplinary issue

Josh Hamilton sprays his bat handle as he stands in the on-deck circle before batting in the second inning of Game 2 of the American League division series between the Angels and the Kansas City Royals on Oct. 3.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton has met with Major League Baseball officials about a disciplinary issue, and the team is bracing for possible penalties.

General Manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed that Hamilton was in New York, but he declined to say what prompted league officials to summon the outfielder or when the situation might be resolved.

“I can say that Josh is going to meet with league officials in New York,” Dipoto said Wednesday afternoon. “At this point, I have no other information to offer.”


The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the meeting, learned it involved a disciplinary issue from a person with direct knowledge of the situation. Hamilton’s agent, Michael Moye, did not return several messages. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment.

Hamilton, 33, is entering the third year of a five-year, $125-million contract. He is recovering from surgery Feb. 4 on his right shoulder. He had not reported to spring training, and the Angels did not issue him a locker in the clubhouse at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

The Angels had allowed Hamilton to remain in Houston — at a friend’s ranch — to rehabilitate from surgery, an odd arrangement considering most players remain with their teams while recovering from injury during spring training or the regular season.

Hamilton, who is scheduled to earn $25 million this season, was projected to be the team’s cleanup or No. 5 hitter but the injury was expected to keep him out until at least May.

Hamilton has a troubled past that includes a well-chronicled, four-year addiction to cocaine and alcohol. He was suspended from baseball from 2003 to 2005 but returned to develop into a feared slugger, hitting .305 and averaging 28 homers and 101 runs batted in a season for Texas from 2008-2012.

Hamilton led the Rangers to the World Series in 2010 and 2011 and won American League most valuable player honors in 2010. But he has been a bust in Anaheim, hitting .255 with 31 homers, 123 RBIs and 266 strikeouts in two seasons marked by injury and underachievement.


“It’s unfortunate how his career as an Angel has started off, but hopefully there’s a strong finish in there,” said Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson, a teammate of Hamilton’s in Texas. “Every team needs its superstar players to be good, and a good Josh is a really good player.”

The Angels were counting on a bounce-back year from Hamilton to help ease the loss of Howie Kendrick, who was traded to the Dodgers in December.

“The shoulder injury definitely hurt us coming into camp,” Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun said. “He can carry a team on his back when he’s hot. We want him to come back healthy and ready to play.”

Manager Mike Scioscia declined to elaborate on Hamilton’s situation. “Josh is in New York, and we’ll just wait to see what the next step is,” he said.

Hamilton, the first pick of the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, suffered alcohol relapses in 2009 and 2012, but it is unclear whether those transgressions count as offenses under baseball’s current joint drug agreement, which took effect in 2004 and has been strengthened repeatedly since.

One condition of Hamilton’s reinstatement was that he be tested for drugs three times a week. For most of the past eight seasons, Hamilton has also traveled with an “accountability partner,” whose primary job is to help Hamilton resist the temptations that could derail his career and embarrass his employers.

Former Reds coach Johnny Narron, whom the Angels hired this winter as a triple-A hitting coach, handled that role for four years in Texas. The men shared apartments in spring training and had adjacent hotel rooms on the road.

“But it’s not like it’s foolproof,” Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels told The Times in 2013.

Narron was with Hamilton in January of 2009, when Hamilton snuck out his apartment window and drank alcohol at a Tempe, Ariz. bar. Hamilton and the Rangers concealed the incident until, seven months later, photos of Hamilton cavorting with three young women at the bar appeared on the Internet.

In January of 2012, after Narron took a job with the Milwaukee Brewers, Hamilton drank alcohol at a Dallas bar. This time, as news of the relapse began circulating on Twitter, Hamilton issued an immediate apology to family and team.

“It’s like someone who is missing a limb — it’s not there anymore, but every once in a while you feel like you have an itch,” Hamilton, speaking in a 2013 interview with The Times, said of his urge to drink. “The thing is, you can’t scratch it.”

Hamilton “down-sized” the role of his accountability partner in 2014, flying Boyd Bassham, whom Hamilton knows from his church in Texas, to road games and hiring family friend Chad Harrington to accompany him to games at Texas and Houston.

Hamilton’s off-season home is in the Dallas area, and his wife, Katie, and four daughters lived with him in Orange County when the Angels were home last season. It is not known whether Hamilton has lined up accountability partners for this year.

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna