By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer
Over the years, I've learned a couple of things from my experiences with the law. First, the best justice is the justice that one makes for one’s self. It’s far better to find your own solution to a problem than to rely on a judge to make one for you. Second, when millionaires and billionaires fight it out, the only ones who truly win are the lawyers who will always get paid. Third, contracts are like marriages—once you become a part of one, breaking it up gets nasty and ugly—fast. Nothing could prove these points more than the litigation between the Angels and the city of Anaheim over the years.
So, like it or not, the Angels and Josh Hamilton are stuck with each other. As a fan, I see right on both sides of the divide. Mr. Moreno invested a lot of money in Hamilton to bring a talented and marketable player to organization. By doing what he did this offseason, Hamilton completely undercut the ability for the team to market him as a player (regardless of his performance over the past two years). Furthermore, by getting off without any punishment on a technicality, he set a bad precedent that says if one confesses to a drug violation before getting caught, he will not suffer any consequences. That’s not just bad for the Angels—it’s bad for all of baseball.
Hamilton’s actions this offseason placed the Angels in a Catch-22 situation. If they welcomed him back as a player, a strong segment of the fan base would be upset with the organization because it says that athletes, particularly expensive ones, can get away with anything. If they shunned him, as they have, a strong segment of the fan base would be upset with the organization for not being compassionate towards Hamilton, the man. Either way, because of Hamilton’s actions this offseason, the Angels were forced into a situation where they’d offend a strong segment of their fan base. Mr. Moreno had every right to be upset for being placed in that predicament.
Looking at this issue objectively, there is right on both sides of this dispute. As a father, I have a 7-year old son named Josh whose favorite player is Hamilton because they share the same first name. How am I supposed to explain this whole mess to my son? How do I tell my son that doing drugs is wrong when he sees that Hamilton suffers no consequences for doing illegal drugs? No matter how I explain, there is the explicit message that with enough lawyers and money, a player can get away with an illegal act. That’s not a lesson I want my son to learn.
At the same time, though, I am a teacher, and have worked with thousands of drug addicted students. I know that addiction is something that never goes away and that addicts don’t really have complete free will when it comes to their substance of choice. They can—and will—fall off the wagon at any point. Highly stressful events, such as filing for divorce, can easily trigger them to relapse. The only truly decision of free will happened long ago when he made the choice to take his first illegal drug—but that ship has long since sailed. Every decision since then has been based on limited free will due to his addiction. While he should be still accountable for taking illegal drugs this offseason, no one can say that he had 100% control when he relapsed.
Having met Hamilton, I like him as a person. He’s a nice man. As far as I know, he’s not evil or malicious such that he doesn’t deserve some sympathy and compassion. I don’t wish ill-will on him; rather, I’d like to see him return to form and power the team to the playoffs. Most of his teammates have publicly supported him, and would like to see him back.
So how do we break this impasse?
As I think about it, I am guided by the principles that form the basis of 12-Steps in Narcotics Anonymous. In particular, I’d like to focus on three of them:
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Using these as a foundation, I believe that there is a solution for bringing Josh Hamilton back to the Angels.
Hamilton’s list for all persons that he harmed has to include the Angels organization, all Angels fans, and all of baseball. That means he needs to make amends to all of them.
I’m going to take Mr. Moreno at his word that his disagreement with Josh Hamilton isn’t about the money. It’s about the trust that Mr. Moreno invested in Hamilton before signing him to such a large contract. Hamilton broke that trust, and in so doing, become a public relations disaster for the team. More importantly, Hamilton, who claimed to be very humble and Christian has not engaged in any act of contrition. His first (and so far only public act) has been to lawyer-up and fight issues on a technicality. That’s not the man that Mr. Moreno met and persuaded to sign with the club. Hamilton’s actions since February do not match the man the Angels were proud to introduce at a press conference. His public actions to date have been to protect his contract and money, not to protect his health or his public image.
So, to that end, I believe that Hamilton should donate half of his salary for this year to charities that the Angels organization supports. Mr. Moreno shouldn’t get the money back because he took that risk by signing Hamilton. However, Hamilton shouldn’t get the money either because he would have at least received an 80-game suspension from MLB had the arbitrator ruled that Hamilton broke the drug policy of the CBA. Donating the $12.5 million for his 80-games would send a strong message of commitment to regaining the trust that has been lost and would be a huge act of contrition on his part.
By giving the money to Angels related charities, such as the Angels Foundation, Angels RBI, the Miracle League, 65 Roses, etc., Hamilton would make amends to the organization by restoring the organization’s image with the public. Hamilton should either make these donations anonymously (even if we all know who did it) or in the name of the Angels so that it is clear that Hamilton is not seeking any glory or publicity from his actions.
Next, Hamilton needs to publicly apologize to all the fans. He needs to take out full-page ads in all the area newspapers asking for our forgiveness. He needs to give a very humble press conference where all the questions are asked and answered. He needs to interact with fans and understand that many will be upset with him for what he did. As a Christian, he will need to turn the other cheek when he’s heckled and booed. It’s unfortunate, but some people out there will never forgive him, no matter what he does. But, that is a consequence for the choices he made.
Finally, Hamilton has to make amends to all of baseball. It’s not right that Hamilton got off without any consequence because he confessed to doing drugs before getting caught on a urine test and other players have gotten 80-game suspensions for getting caught without confessing. This is a loophole that will only get exploited over the years to the point of costing the game more through negative public images lost fans.
To make amends to the sport, Hamilton needs to publicly call upon his agent to work with the Player’s Association and the Owners to draft new language in the next CBA to address this specific loophole. A person who confesses to using an illegal or banned substance should still receive a punishment for violating the drug bans. However, I do believe that it is better to get players to admit their wrongs rather than waiting until they are caught, so, I would be willing to see the punishment slightly less for confessing rather than for those who try and beat the system. Hamilton should publicly declare that he should be the first, last, and only player to ever get off on this type of loop hole.
Why would Hamilton publicly advocate this? Because, as step 12 states, he needs to carry this message forward to other addicts. Hamilton is not the only addict in all of baseball. By publicly calling for this specific change to the CBA, Hamilton will help all other addicts come to see the errors of their ways. Failing to do this leaves the dangerous precedent out there for all addicts to see, and, will prevent Hamilton from ever returning to a state where he can get only with his life and his addiction. More importantly, it will continue to hurt other addicts, who will think that they can beat the consequences of their actions rather than dealing with the issues of their addiction. A truly recovered person would never want to help inspire other addicts to continue to use.
If Hamilton does all of this, Mr. Moreno and the Angels should welcome him back to the team. More importantly, we, as fans should welcome him back as well. I know I would.
For his sake, and so that he can get back to dealing with his addiction from a position of strength, I hope he does it.