This era of baseball is still responding violently against the Steroid Era that broke long standing records that were held near and dear to the baseball fandom. With injections of chemicals some players artificially inflated their ability. But drugs have long been a mainstay in baseball. Players for years have used amphetamines to help them through the grueling baseball season. It is assumed that prior to the introduction of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs most clubhouses ran freely with amphetamines.
Illicit drugs were also well known among many teams. The most common drug of choice was cocaine. Among the most famous users and abusers of this drug were Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry and Oil Can Boyd. As recently as this week former Rangers pitcher Boyd confessed to pitching the majority of his career under the influence of the drug. Even since the end of the Steroid Age the presence of cocaine in baseball is shown by the admission of Rangers head coach Ron Washington to using the drug.
Alcoholism has robbed baseball of some of the greatest players it has ever known including Yankee great Mickey Mantle. Other players and coaches have made incredibly bad decisions involving alcohol including 2011 World Series MVP David Freese has been arrested twice for DUI, Tony LaRussa also arrested for DUI, and Jim Leyritz was involved in a DUI crash that resulted in the death of the other driver.
What Josh Hamilton decided to do to his body with cocaine, alcohol and crack have affected his health and his ability to stay in the lineup for the entire season. But this was a known issue when he was traded for from the Cincinnati Reds. For fans to be bringing up his injury history now is old news, and is something that has to be expected when you have him on your team.
With his past with drug and alcohol abuse Hamilton is subject to random drug tests at any time. To his credit he has not failed any MLB administered test. While his two most famous falls from the sobriety wagon are difficult and they sting they are not illegal. I would go so far as to say the vast majority of recovering alcoholics have multiple relapses. The fact that he has not gone on week long benders and taken any amount of illegal substance should reinforce the fact that he is human, but not something to be thrown away.
I think Hamilton is hampered by a lot of things. He has his personal baggage, the fact that he openly espouses his Christianity and the fact that he is a top tier baseball player. He has the ability to be one of the best players of his generation and has the misfortune to know that it could all slip away at any moment.
Does Hamilton need a lot? Yes. He needs his fans and he needs his teammates. He needs to have his off the field life put in perspective with his one the field work. He needs to have the hours he spends talking with fans and signing autographs paired with the relapses he has. But above all he needs faith.