The Angels have the reigning AL MVP in Mike Trout and are hoping to contend for a World Series title in 2015. And yet, much of the early season chatter has centered on Josh Hamilton.
The embattled veteran will not be punished by MLB for his offseason drug relapse, but Angels owner Arte Moreno has hinted that Hamilton may never play for the Angels again. In fact, Moreno may even attempt to recoup some of Hamilton’s salary.
The Angels, if you’re curious, are 3-5, but their slow start seems to have been lost in the shuffle.
“Unfortunately, in the first week of the season, it’s probably been more of a 50/50 split, much to the chagrin of the Angles,” MLB.com Angels beat writer Mike DiGiovanna said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “It’s just been a really bizarre and a really contentious – surprisingly contentious – situation. The surprising part being that everyone was worried about what kind of distraction Josh Hamilton would be, and it just seems like it’s a lot of the comments and reactions of the Angels owner and the front office that is causing all the columns and stories to be written about them that are, in turn, probably going to cause a distraction for this team. Definitely a bizarre situation and an ugly situation and not the kind of thing you want hanging over your head as you start a season with a team that’s supposed to make the playoffs and contend for a World Series.”
Unfortunately for Moreno, he may have very little control over Hamilton’s future.
“The arbitrator came down with his decision saying that Josh’s relapse did not constitute a violation of baseball’s drug agreement,” DiGiovanna said. “That prevented the commissioner from suspending him. And even though the owner came out last Friday and said they have separate language in Josh’s contract that forbids him to do drugs or alcohol, all that language is superseded by the collective bargaining agreement and the joint drug agreement.
“I think what you’re going to eventually see is some kind of fight (or) negotiation between the union and the Angels,” DiGiovanna continued. “It’ll probably go to some kind of grievances hearing or arbitration again to determine whether the Angles have any recourse and getting back some of the $83 million they owe Josh, or whether Josh might be willing to agree to some kid of buy-out of his contract.
“I don’t see a happy ending for Josh in Anaheim. I don’t get the sense he’s welcomed here. I’m not sure he’d even want to play here, but at what price? How much money is he willing to give up, so to speak, to get out of here?”
While management has been critical of Hamilton, his teammates, by and large, have not.
“It’s (an) interesting thing with the players,” DiGiovanna said. “Over the weekend, C.J. Wilson had a few comments in support of Josh and (was) very critical of the team. Josh, I’ve only covered him for two years, but he’s an extremely likable guy. I think his teammates really like him as a person. It’s tough because he has not produced anything close to what he produced in Texas for those five years for the Angles. Even though they like him as a person, they need him to contribute.
“So I’m not going to say they’re ambivalent toward it,” DiGiovanna continued. “They’re trying to play the season without it being a distraction. They’re trying to focus on the 25 guys in the clubhouse. They care about Josh as a person and want him and his family to be okay. They know his struggles with this stuff, and they do care and like him as a person, but they can’t get too wrapped up in waiting for him because that’s going to take focus away from what they’re doing on the field. So just a really odd mix of emotions. I just don’t see a real happy resolution to this thing.”