By Glen McKee and Nate Trop, AngelsWin.com Staff Writers -
For us at PCP headquarters, this feels weird. We are about to tackle a subject that is both serious and very current. That subject is of course Collin Cowgill’s abs Josh Hamilton. There is a huge range of opinions on how everything went down and who is at fault and we are prepared to bring you the most narrow-minded of those opinions. At this point, some 24+ hours after the official announcement that Josh Hamilton is embarking on his post-Angels career, what can be said about the situation that hasn’t already been uttered a dozen times? You guessed it: absolutely nothing. As always, that doesn’t stop us here at PCP. Our voices will be heard! And then forgotten, but we’ll still shout into that void. Away we go!
Two Wrongs Sorta Make a Right – Glen McKee
There are so many angels (wink) to this story that it’s difficult to pick just one or two for focus. The media consensus (outside of Anaheim) seems to be that Arte Moreno is a huge asshole that is getting exactly what he deserves, and that Josh Hamilton is an addict that needs baseball’s help to defeat his demons. I’d like to address each of those separately, in reverse order.
First: yes, Hamilton is indeed an addict and I have sympathy for that. We all have our addictions and/or crutches that get us through the day. Hamilton just happens to be a highly-functioning addict with a talent set that enables him to avoid responsibility for his actions. Look no further than this quote from his press conference for returning to the team he rejected in favor of the Angels a few winters ago: “They just didn’t want that to happen for some reason. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me mad, but I prepared. [Moreno] knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down, he knew what he was getting. He knew what the risks were. He knew all those things. Under the [joint drug agreement], it is what it is.” To paraphrase: it wasn’t Hamilton’s fault, Arte knew what he was getting when he signed an addict.
And you know what the pisser is? Hamilton is right. Moreno should have known what he was getting into when he offered that contract. Hamilton’s record in the season before he signed with the Angels should have been an indication of what was to come. Rangers’ fans had tired of his act before the burned his jersey when he left. I can only speculate about what Moreno was thinking when he signed Hamilton, but I imagine he was trying to make a big splash as well as stick it to a division rival, a rival that had eclipsed the Angels in the previous years.
Hamilton being right doesn’t remove his culpability, though. It’s easy to ascribe his actions to the manipulations of an addict and it makes an attract conspiracy if you want to go down that road. He relapsed and immediately realized what he had done and sought to not only control the damage, but set himself up for a better situation. His personal life was deteriorating and he wanted to return to where he was last appreciated and a super star, instead of staying where he was a punchline. It makes for a good story. Is it true? Only Hamilton knows. I think that parts of it may be authentic but as a whole it’s a bit too much to take at face values. What I know for certain is that Hamilton is no longer on the Angels and the team can now move forward from perhaps the biggest mistake in franchise history (breathe easy, Vernon Wells).
And that brings us to Arte Moreno, the new George Steinbrenner of the west coast. You don’t have to look hard or far to see him cast as the comic-book villain; the only thing missing is twirly-ends to his moustache that he can roll between his thumbs and index fingers. I don’t think he’s the villain, though; he’s just the pissed-off rich guy, and I understand that. As I mentioned above Moreno offered the contract so he’s responsible for the consequences. Caveat emptor and all of that. I think that most Angels’ fans will admit that when Hamilton was signed our reaction was more of “ha ha, take that, Texas!” than it was “we got a player that will really help the team going forward!” Spite is dangerous, and now Moreno is paying the price. He has to write a huge check to watch Hamilton play for a division rival while he badmouths (covertly, but let’s not kid ourselves) the team that gifted him with such largesse. He also has to get raked over the media coals while all of this happens. I’m not suggesting that Moreno deserves pity; it’s difficult for me to muster up compassion for somebody who can write a $70 million check like he’s taking a twenty out of the petty cash drawer. That’s not class envy, it’s just recognizing that Moreno and I live in vastly different worlds. However, I don’t think Moreno is the villain here. I don’t think there’s a villain at all. Hamilton did what he should have been expected to do, and Moreno reacted poorly but still made amends (by giving Hamilton an all-expenses paid ticket out of town). If anything, Moreno is an enabler more than a villain.
What was Arte thinking!? - Nathan Trop
Because I lack creativity I want to start this off as I always do, with a disclaimer. I don’t support Josh Hamilton and I do think that he was wrong. Josh is a professional athlete rehabbing from a shoulder injury. He definitely shouldn’t be out on cocaine bender. I also don’t think it is necessarily the Angels job to support him and tell him everything is ok. If you want to privately tell him how disappointed you are in him and that he let the team and his fans down fine.
My problem lies with how Arte and the Angels handled it. I don’t think what the Angels said about him was off base or unwarranted as it pertains to a true reaction to what he did. The issue is that Arte and John Carpino went on the offensive as soon as the news leaked out that Hamilton had a relapse (and many around baseball believe that the Angels had something to do with the news leaking). If you want to publicly chastise and alienate a man you still owe some 80 million dollars then you sure as heck better be sure that you can get out of the contract.
Within hours of the news that the arbitrator decided not to suspend Hamilton, the Angels brass proclaimed that they have language in Josh’s contract that they can exercise to void the contract. They attacked his character and honor, and like I said I don’t disagree with what they said, just why they did it. How foolish do the Angels look now, they didn’t even try to void his contract, the JDA clearly says that they can’t. Why didn’t they know this? If they did know this then why did they publicly shame him? It made Arte and the Angels look petty and clueless.
I know Josh has performed poorly as an Angel but consider his ceiling as a player. Now consider the ceiling of a player you can get for the $15-20 million they are saving on him. Maybe you get rid of a distraction to the team, which I am not even sure he was, considering the support the players gave him in the weeks since this all came out. The Angels are paying him 60 million dollars for the next three years to play for a rival, where he had a lot of success.
There is no way this doesn’t have an impact on future FAs. If you were offered the same money to play for another large market team, why would you choose the Angels, knowing that if you screw up the owner and president of the team will publicly blast you?
As hard as it would be and as much as it doesn’t make sense, I think this is a time where the Angels needed to go into PR mode, publicly support him, even if to privately chastise him. Let him rehab and come back from his shoulder injury, offer to put him on bereavement so he can go to drug rehab, bring back his sober coach, whatever it takes. Then privately hope that he performs and trade him or accept that you took a risk in the first place signing a guy like him and deal with the fallout. I don’t agree with Josh not taking accountability in this, he has made some huge mistakes and really screwed the team that gave him a chance, but Arte has some accountability here too. They signed a guy with a past of drug abuse, and now instead of living with their mistake they hastily swept it under the rug to the tune of $60+ million.