With MLB and union appointees deadlocked on the issue of whether Josh Hamilton’s relapse was a suspendable offense, the decision fell to an independent arbitrator. The arbitrator has made the call: Hamilton didn’t violate the terms of his treatment program, will not be punished, and is eligible to play immediately.
Here’s the statement from MLB, which isn’t happy with the ruling:
The four-person board (two attorneys, two doctors, one of each selected by the MLB and the MLBPA) had reportedly been split on the JDA-scheduled seriousness of Hamilton’s offense, and on the appropriateness of suspension vs. rehab as potential discipline. But this is the first indication we had that the union appointees believed the Angels outfielder’s admission of a relapse involving cocaine wasn’t a violation at all.
MLB’s drug program is a nightmare. No one could agree on whether this should have been counted as Hamilton’s first offense, or his fourth, or anywhere in between, because all six of his earlier failed drug tests occurred while he was in the minors. It’s not even clear if Hamilton failed a drug test this time—he reportedly came forward when he realized he would fail one—or if that distinction played a role in his lack of discipline.
So Hamilton is owed his full $23 million salary for 2015, and will be allowed to take the field when he returns from rehabbing after shoulder surgery, which is expected to be about another month. He will not, as had been rumored, have to go to rehab—but obviously could still make that decision himself.
Update: Angels GM Jerry DiPoto released this statement on the Hamilton ruling: