Friday, February 27, 2015

The perpetual struggle

When a person overcomes addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, the specter of a relapse is always a concern. But when one attempts to maintain that sobriety while in a very public forum, the task is that much more daunting.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton suffered a drug relapse involving the use of cocaine and alcohol in the offseason, according to a New York Daily News report.

Hamilton has a well-documented history of substance abuse problems dating to his days in the minor leagues, when he was suspended from baseball from February 2004 to June 2006, for issues related to cocaine and alcohol addiction.

The Angels confirmed that he met with MLB officials in New York on Wednesday about a disciplinary issue but offered no specifics as to the nature of any offense.

"We're all waiting for some information to come out of New York," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Thursday. "He obviously went up there for a meeting, and we'll see how everything unfolds. But right now, we're just in a holding pattern like everyone else."

I first learned of Josh Hamilton's story in late 2003/early 2004 while reading an article in ESPN The Magazine. Said article contrasted the careers of Hamilton and pitcher Josh Beckett, who were selected first and second overall, respectively, in the 1999 MLB draft.

Beckett had just completed an incredible '03 postseason with the Florida Marlins that culminated in his pitching a five-hit shutout in Yankee Stadium in the World Series clinching victory. On the other end of the spectrum, Hamilton, who had been beset with injuries and drug addiction, had basically disappeared from organized baseball in 2003. He would be suspended from the game shortly thereafter.

When Hamilton made his MLB debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, I immediately recalled the story I read regarding his downward spiral. As such, I was heartened that an unquestionably gifted baseball player was able to resume his love of the game. He seemed to find a home in Arlington, TX when he was traded from the Reds to the Rangers prior to the '08 season. In five seasons with Texas, Hamilton went to the All Star Game all five years while averaging 28 home runs and 101 RBIs per season. In 2010, he won the American League MVP award while leading the Rangers to their first World Series appearance in the franchise's nearly forty year history. The Rangers would repeat as AL champs in 2011.

But things seemingly went downhill for Hamilton late in the 2012 season, which would be his final one with Texas. Hamilton slumped mightily down the stretch, a slump which loomed large in the Rangers blowing a six game division lead over the Oakland A's with nine to play. In the final regular season game against the A's, Hamilton dropped what appeared to be a routine fly ball in a tie game. Oakland would go on to win that game and the AL West division, relegating Texas to the wild card game against the Baltimore Orioles. Texas' season would end after that game in which Hamilton was a miserable 0 for 4 (he even heard some boos from the Rangers' faithful).

Two months after signing a 5-year free agent contract with the Angels, Hamilton further alienated himself from Rangers' fans by saying the Dallas-Fort Worth area was "not a true baseball town." On top of that, he was downright pedestrian in his debut season with the Angels as he hit only .250 with 21 HRs and 79 RBIs in 151 games. Then in an injury plagued 2014 campaign, Hamilton played only 89 regular season games and went 0 for 13 in the ALDS where his club was swept by the Kansas City Royals. Upon conclusion of that series, Hamilton dismissed the fans' booing as "comical" and further indicated that the Angels "don’t necessarily play for the people in the stands. We play for each other." I understand all that was said out of frustration, but it's horrible optics from a player making $25 million per season.

Upon joining the Angels in 2013, I'm certain Hamilton felt tremendous pressure to redeem himself after a tumultuous end to his Rangers' career. In addition, he likely wanted to ingratiate himself to Angels' fans upon signing that $125 million deal. The weight of all that would likely wear down a relatively functional human being to say nothing of a person who has the perpetual struggle of keeping drug addiction at bay. Hamilton made a storybook comeback from his initial plummet into drugs and alcohol. Does he have enough in him to find redemption a second time? If his faith in Jesus Christ is still solid, Hamilton of all people should know that all things are possible.


1 comment:

R Johnson said...

What a struggle it is indeed for those who are fighting their way through drug addiction recovery because the recovery process is always ongoing as this story clearly shows. Fortunately there is help and hope available for everyone who sincerely desires recovery.