Behind the Jersey: MLB idols fade with Hamilton's second relapse

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If the world is looking for a place where their children can look up to their role models and aspire to walk in the same shoes as their mentors, Major League Baseball is probably not the best place to do so right now.

Right when fans buy a shirt or jersey of the player they love due to their on and off the field contributions to their community, the players turn around and slap them in the face metaphorically speaking.

First, Manny was “being Manny” when he got suspended on two occasions for taking steroids. He jumped from the beloved Red Sox to team after team as his production dwindled down. As allegations continued to rise, Manny retired from the game.

Next, Ryan Braun gets hit with the same 50-game suspension for failing a drug test. Coming off his miraculous MVP season that saw him hit .332, 33 homeruns and drive in 111 runs, Braun tested positive for the use of “medication” that gave him much higher levels of testosterone. The 28-year-old is appealing the suspension.

Now, another former MVP Josh Hamilton has relapsed on his drinking ways. This one really stings. Having been the face of baseball in recent years and the ideal “back-from-the-dead” story in the world of sports, Hamilton has disappointed sports viewers around the globe.

The former Rays number one overall draft pick missed the entire 2003, 2004 and 2005 seasons due to his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Since his return, he has become one of the best players in baseball on a team that has won the last two American League pennants. This includes his ALL MVP in 2010 and his record-setting performance in the 2008 Home Run Derby.

This is Hamilton’s second known alcohol-related relapse in three years. Both incidents came during the offseason, and this one has put a hold on talks with the Rangers about a contract extension.

In January 2009, the North Carolina native drank heavily while in a bar in Tempe, Ariz. He would later apologize for the incident when several photos leaked to the public. According to Hamilton, he had been sober since October 2005.

In the most recent occurrence, the slugger claims to have had three or four drinks with dinner and then continued drinking later that night. After dinner, Hamilton contacted fellow teammate Ian Kinsler to come hang out with him. Kinsler joined him, but was apparently unaware that Hamilton had been drinking at all.

The 30-year-old Hamilton said his latest actions “hurt a lot of people very close to me.” He didn’t take questions on the matter. On Twitter, Hamilton’s wife, Katie, wrote: “Truly appreciate all the encouraging & supportive tweets we’ve been getting. God is Faithful and forgives- so thankful that you all are … Showing us such love and encouragement during this time.”

Hamilton claims he didn’t even think of using drugs that night. He said he had been tested for drugs “twice since Monday” as part of his normal mandated routine. The routine in which the slugger refers to are the three mandatory drug tests he takes per week since being reinstated into the league. 

Normally, Hamilton has an accountability partner to support him when times get tough, but the position is now vacant due to the recent relocation of former assistant hitting coach Johnny Narron. Narron recently took a job with the Brewers in Milwaukee.

The Rangers had announced last month that Hamilton’s father-in-law had been hired as a staff special assistant to be the accountability partner, but Michael Dean Chadwick has since decided against accepting the position due to “family considerations.”

Hamilton and general manager Jon Daniels said the outfielder will meet soon with Major League Baseball doctors and counselors in New York for an evaluation in his continued recovery.

As far as the centerfielder and his family are concerned, this should be the last of these incidents. Hamilton has a wife and four daughters. His youngest daughter was born last summer.

“For everybody who I have hurt, for everybody – fans, kids, people who have addictions and look up to me – I apologize to you,” he said. “When you’re doing this, you don’t mean to hurt anybody. You only think you’re hurting yourself, but as I know, you’re hurting a lot of people.”

I cannot take a break from my recovery. My recovery is Christ. My recovery is an everyday process. When I take that one day off, it leaves me open for a moment of weakness and it’s always been that way,” Hamilton added.

My question is this: what happens from here? As a baseball fan, this breaks my heart. Hamilton has been the epitome of strength and leadership in the game of baseball for a few seasons now. Who do we look up to now? 

More importantly, what are going to be the consequences? I never want to see professional athletes being punished or suspended but this is a must-act situation. This cannot go unnoticed.

My fear is that this will be swept under the rug and will later be followed by similar acts of misconduct by Hamilton or others alike. Fines and slaps on the wrist mean nothing to these professional athletes. For guys that are being paid 10-plus million dollars per season, a $50,000 dollar fine is pocket change. He should be suspended. It will be bad for the game but good in the long run. What message would baseball send by not doing anything to the man? Take away some valuable playing time in a season where he is looking to receive a contract extension and he will understand the severity of the matter.

In my mind, the Texas organization needs to hire someone as soon as possible to fill the void of “Accountability partner.” He should never be allowed to go to dinner unsupervised and have the ability to order a drink. He is a grown man, but that choice was taken from him back in 2003 when he served his first year of suspension. There is a reason he is drug tested three times a week. For a team that celebrates with Ginger Ale rather than champagne in the postseason, they better make sure there is a reason they are making such a dedicated sacrifice. If Hamilton stays away from drugs and bars, he is the ideal role model for children and adult fans alike. Baseball needs to keep it that way.