Time to Ban Josh Hamilton

No more chances. MLB needs to ban Hamilton.
This is going to sound cruel, but here goes: If Major League Baseball is serious about cleaning up its drug problem, Josh Hamilton needs to become the star poster child for three strikes and you're out. Let's face it; if a sober Josh Hamilton couldn't hit a baseball a country mile, he would have been tossed on the trash heap long ago. Lucky for him he can–or at least, he could. It's no longer clear if Hamilton can perform at all, but it has become abundantly clear he can't be trusted.

Only pop stars and movie idols are as pampered as athletes. Fall outside that exalted company and society is content to allow you to suffer from any demon of your own construction. Part of the conceit of those profiting from the chosen, though, is that somehow their rehabs and special programs will work better than those of mere mortals. They don't. An unassailable fact: junkies lie. Second unassailable fact: there are far more relapsed junkies than there are ex-junkies. When I heard that Hamilton has (allegedly) being using coke and alcohol again, I couldn't get ex-manager Earl Weaver's words out of my head. When mercurial and pitcher Mike Cuellar complained that his skipper didn't give him a "chance" after he lost his effectiveness, Weaver retorted, "I gave Mike Cuellar more chances than I gave my first wife."

Josh Hamilton has certainly has his chances. He was suspended from 2004 through 2006. Despite stringent intervention involving thrice a week testing, Hamilton fell off the wagon in 2009 and again in 2012. Alas, it appears that 2015 is the latest bout. At some point, tragedies become farce and one must simply admit that the cause (and quite possibly the individual) is a loss.

Steve Howe
Does anyone remember Steve Howe? In his sixteen MLB years (1980-96) he was suspended seven times for drugs. Each time tears were shed, pledges were made, and the word "tragic" appeared. Steve Howe died a junkie in 2006, his penultimate act having been penning an autobiography in which he claimed to have kicked the habit through his conversion to evangelical Christianity. Remember–junkies lie. All the promise, all the interventions, and all the good intentions simply don't matter if the momentary rush is better than the long-term effort of getting clean. Ask Jeff Allison, the can't-miss pitcher who did because he liked heroin better than heroism. Or Daryl Strawberry, who exchanged his #39 jersey for a Florida State Prison number.

Strawberry claims he's turned his life around. I hope so. I hope Josh Hamilton will too–outside of Major League Baseball. The game has done all it can for Hamilton. He's no longer a tragedy; he's a farce. Ban him from the game, sever his ties to his MLB enablers, and let him show us if he's the next Daryl Strawberry, or the next Steve Howe. So long, Josh. You could have been a contender.

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