The latest Josh Hamilton saga has been unfortunate for all parties involved. Hamilton's past struggles with drugs and alcohol are well documented, and his recent admission of a relapse was so sad to hear about. Everyone in the baseball world wants to see him overcome his addictions once again, and fans everywhere are behind him. If only it were that simple.
Complicating the issue is the fact that members of Angels management have made some public comments that have not been well received, and public opinion seems to be on Hamilton's side. That's understandable, and I'm extremely sympathetic to Hamilton's plight, but there is no denying that he has put the club in a tough position. Let's take a look at this situation from the team's perspective.
There were a lot of questions surrounding Hamilton when he became a free agent following the 2012 season. He had substance abuse issues earlier in his career, as well as two documented relapses, and he appeared to be leaving a stable environment in Texas to sign with the Angels. The Angels went into this situation with their eyes wide open, and based on recent comments made by Angels owner Arte Moreno, it's clear the team discussed his past substance abuse when negotiating Hamilton's five-year, $125 million contract, even to the point of reportedly adding protective language in the contract in case of another relapse.
Public sentiment seems to be that the club only cares about the money owed Hamilton, and that the Angels wouldn't be complaining if Hamilton had performed like a superstar the past couple of years. But this issue is about more than that. It is about the violation of trust and responsibility that comes from the player when he makes a commitment to be not only the best player on the field, but also the best representative off the field for the organization.
We are often quick to portray the club as "greedy" and "opportunistic" when player-management conflicts arise, but by not holding the player accountable, we are enabling this type of behavior to continue to exist within our game. As tough as it can be for addicts to stay clean -- a fact that shouldn't be forgotten or downplayed -- the club didn't create this issue.
Hamilton chose to sign with the Angels when it seemed clear that no amount of money could duplicate the supportive and established environment that was created for him in Texas. It seems that he decided getting the largest contract possible was the most important thing, even at the expense of an environment in which he thrived.
It was very disappointing to hear about Hamilton's relapse, and everyone in baseball is hoping that he can make a complete recovery, even if he can never again be a consistent superstar. All that said, the Angels have good reason to feel violated, because Hamilton is not blameless in this rift.
Dan O'Dowd is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.