Saturday, February 4, 2012

Josh Hamilton's relapse

Josh Hamilton on Friday admitted that he had gone drinking
on Monday: "It was just wrong."
Word got out late Thursday that 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton had been seen drinking at a bar in the Dallas-Fort Worth area earlier in the week. Since Hamilton is baseball's most notorious recovering addict, it was big news — big enough to prompt a Hamilton mea culpa press conference on Friday.

It's not Hamilton's first relapse since his return from the abyss, but it certainly came at a sensitive time: The outfielder is going into his walk year, and contract talks between his agent and the Texas Rangers were broken off in the immediate wake of his relapse.

I find myself wondering, however, not so much about what this latest slip means for Hamilton the ballplayer as what it suggests about his post-baseball future. Both this and his previous relapse, after all, came in January — in the heart of the offseason, in a time when the structure of the season isn't available. Also, there are a lot of people around him (again, particularly during the season) who want, if only for selfish reasons, to keep him sober and productive.

He has a support system, frayed as it may be, in place — but it has a lot to do with baseball. And baseball is only a part of life, even for a talent as magnificent as Hamilton.

Someday his playing days are going to end. The financial incentive for others to help him stay in line will vanish. The lure of tomorrow's game won't be there.

If he struggles to stay sober in the offseason, what awaits him when his permanent offseason arrives? For an addict, sobriety is always a daunting notion, but in Hamilton's case, it seems even more difficult.

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