Josh Hamilton won't be disciplined under MLB drug program

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton will not be disciplined by Major League Baseball for his latest problems involving cocaine and alcohol.

MLB said Friday the decision was made by an arbitrator appointed under its joint drug program with the players' association. MLB said in a statement it disagreed with the decision and will "seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the program in the collective bargaining process."

Hamilton, a five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL MVP, is subject to the treatment program for prior violations involving cocaine stretching back a decade.

He self-reported a new issue this year involving both cocaine and alcohol, a person familiar with the case said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because those details were not made public.

MLB said it took "the position that Hamilton violated his treatment program and is subject to discipline by the commissioner."

Baseball defines cocaine as a drug of abuse -- which is covered by different rules than those for performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids.

A four-person treatment board created by the joint drug program, which includes one lawyer and one medical representative each appointed by management and the players' association, deadlocked 2-2 on whether Hamilton's conduct was a violation of his treatment program and was subject to discipline. That created the need for an arbitrator to break the tie.

A person familiar with the process said the arbitrator was Roberta Golick, a former president of the National Academy of Arbitrators. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because her name was not announced.

A hearing was held before Golick, and Hamilton was represented by lawyers Jay Reisinger and Tina Miller. The arbitrator said only that Hamilton was not subject to discipline and did not give reasons for the decision, the first person familiar with the case said.

"The Angels have serious concerns about Josh's conduct, health and behavior, and we are disappointed that he has broken an important commitment, which he made to himself, his family, his teammates and our fans," general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement on behalf of the team. "We are going to do everything possible to assure he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family."

The Major League Baseball Players Association said in a statement that it will "respect the integrity of the negotiated joint drug agreement process and protocols, as well as any decisions that are the result of that process."

Hamilton, who turns 34 in May, won the AL MVP award with Texas during a six-year stretch as one of baseball's best all-around players for the Rangers and Cincinnati Reds. He has been a disappointment in his first two seasons since signing a $125 million, five-year deal with the Angels before the 2013 season.

Hamilton played in just 89 games because of injuries and struggled at the plate throughout last season, culminating in an 0-for-13 performance in the Angels' three-game loss to Kansas City in the AL Division Series. After resting his ailing right shoulder throughout the offseason, he had surgery in February that will prevent him from playing until at least May.

He was the first pick in the 1999 amateur draft out of Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, but his surge through the minors was sidetracked by substance abuse beginning in 2001. He did not play after July 2002 because of injuries and unspecified personal issue, and he was suspended for 30 days on Feb. 17, 2004. That March 19, the suspension was extended through the rest of the season, and when he failed to appear for a drug test that August the suspension was extended through the 2005 season.

He barely played baseball for four years, but found stability off the field with sobriety counseling, a wife and a family that now includes four children.

Hamilton resumed his career in the minor leagues in 2006. He ended up in 2007 with the Reds, and he received a long standing ovation when he made his major league debut. He had 19 homers and 47 RBIs as a rookie, and Cincinnati traded him to Texas in the offseason.

He was an immediate hit with the Rangers, leading the league with 130 RBIs and earning a starting spot in the All-Star game in 2008. He won the AL batting title in 2010, and he was selected the AL Championship Series MVP while leading the Rangers to their first World Series appearance.

But even during his success, Hamilton had problems. He acknowledged a relapse in early 2009 after he was photographed getting drunk in a bar in Arizona, and he held a news conference in 2012 to apologize for another night of drinking.

The Rangers celebrated their playoff successes in 2010 and 2011 by drinking ginger ale instead of champagne in a nod to Hamilton's sobriety. After playing in a second World Series in 2011, Hamilton had a career-best 43 homers and 128 RBIs in 2012 despite injury problems and a late-season slide that prompted some Rangers fans to boo him.

Hamilton has managed just 31 homers and 123 RBIs in two seasons with the Angels.