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Arbitrator rules Josh Hamilton should not be punished

Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels at

Josh Hamilton of the Los Angeles Angels at the press conference introducing him as the team's newest member at ESPN Zone at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, Calif. (Dec. 15, 2012) Credit: Getty

Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton learned Friday that he will not be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse after an independent arbitrator ruled in his favor and against Major League Baseball.

Hamilton, who already was in the sport's treatment program because of a history of drug and alcohol problems, now is eligible to play as well as collect the $23 million he is owed this season, the third of his five-year, $125-million contract with the Angels.

"The office of the commissioner disagrees with the decision," MLB said in a statement, "and will seek to address deficiencies in the manner in which drugs of abuse are addressed under the program in the collective-bargaining process."

The current CBA is in effect through the 2016 season, and the negotiations for the next deal will be the first as commissioner for Rob Manfred.

Hamilton did not participate in spring training with the Angels and stayed home in Texas to rehab from offseason shoulder surgery. Without the typical Cactus League schedule to get in shape, the timetable for his return is uncertain.

"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," the Angels said in a statement. "We are going to do everything possible to [ensure] he receives proper help for himself and for the well-being of his family."

Hamilton, who turns 34 next month, has not been the same powerful offensive threat for the Angels that he was during his five seasons with the Rangers. A five-time All-Star in Texas, Hamilton was the 2010 American League MVP and led the majors in batting average (.359) and slugging percentage (.633). He had a slash line of .305/.363/.549 with the Rangers, averaging 28 home runs and 101 RBIs. That production has dipped to .255/.316/.426 for the Angels, along with a total of 31 homers and 123 RBIs in two seasons.

MLB and the Players Association disagreed on the proper course of discipline for Hamilton, who in February reportedly admitted cocaine use to the commissioner's office. He did not fail a test.

Because the two sides were in conflict, an independent arbitrator was used, and the ruling was that Hamilton's conduct did not violate the program.

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