Hamilton empathizes with Washington

Hamilton empathizes with Washington

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There is nobody in baseball who has more first-hand knowledge about the ravages of drugs than Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.

His well-chronicled travels from No. 1 draft pick and mega-prospect to a hopeless drug addict, to a player who experienced triumphant redemption has been one of the most written stories in the game the past few years.

So if anybody knows what Rangers manager Ron Washington is going through, it should be Hamilton. While Hamilton does have a high degree of empathy and support, he doesn't want anybody to think that what Washington did last summer compares in any way to what he went through over a 3 1/2-year period.

"No way is this close to the same situation," Hamilton said. "There is no comparison. My life revolved around drugs. I didn't care about anything else and I neglected my responsibilities as a man, as a father and as a husband. But I was able to learn from my mistakes. Put yourself in his position. As human beings, we all make mistakes. You learn from your mistakes, you deal with your mistakes and you move forward.

"Wash had a moment of weakness. He made a bad decision, he handled it well and he's moving in the right direction. Wash says it happened once and I believe it. I believe him that it won't happen again. Now if somebody in my situation said that, you wouldn't think twice. That's why I am continuing in my recovery and moving forward to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Washington admitted on Wednesday that he used and tested positive for cocaine one time last summer. Washington, faced with the possibility of failing a random drug test, notified Major League Baseball and the Rangers, and told them about his situation.

On Wednesday, with the story about to break publicly, Washington met his players and told them what had happened, although some had already known about the situation.

2010 Spring Training - null
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info

"He's broken," Hamilton said. "He's let a lot of people down and Wash is not the type of man who likes to let people down. But it will make him a better man because of how he handled it. It's a shame that it came out publicly, but that's the world we live in. People want to try and damage you. I feel sorry for that person, but Wash did the right thing. I believe in him 100 percent."

Hamilton has to live with his problem daily. He is drug-tested three times a week. He had one setback last year before Spring Training when he went to a bar in Tempe and went on a drinking binge. The incident came to light last summer. But Hamilton did not use drugs that night, he did not test positive and he was not disciplined by Major League Baseball or the Rangers.

The incident still reinforced the fundamental truth that his recovery is tenuous, his vigilance must be unswerving and it remains a day-to-day struggle. He understands, from that point, what Washington must go through in dealing with his situation.

"My biggest thing is don't let it get to you and don't let the doubts creep into your mind," Hamilton said. "You start thinking, 'Do I deserve to be here and belong on this team? Do I really belong?'

"They'll be there, but don't let them creep in and get you down. That's the big thing. I've been there. Sometimes I have doubts whether or not I belong here. That is the enemy trying to hold us back. You can't let that happen."

One difference is Hamilton is a player. Washington, 57, is the Rangers manager, team leader and face of the franchise. There is certainly a case to be made that a veteran manager with the wisdom of experience should be held to a much higher standard than a young player.

Hamilton doesn't see last summer's incident as an impediment to Washington's ability to lead the Rangers.

"Ron is a great leader," Hamilton said. "He's probably my favorite manager I've played for through my Minor League and Major League career. His door is always open, he understands and he always has sound advice, it hasn't changed because of this. He's still a great manager and this doesn't change his ability to manage.

"If you look at leaders throughout history, as history has progressed, it's easier for mistakes to come out and be seen. I don't know many leaders in history who haven't made mistakes. But it's easier now for those mistakes to come out and responding to those mistakes is a big deal."

This did come out. Hamilton had to deal with the public scrutiny and he understands that Washington will have to do the same.

"Even if this didn't come out, certain people would still look down on him," Washington said. "Even if you don't make a mistake, there are still certain people who aren't going to like you. If you do make a mistake, people are going to get on you, ride you and see how you respond.

"That's part of dealing with the consequences. Certainly there are going to be fans that link us together. I can only imagine what is going to be said, but is it going to upset me? No way. I know people like that have something going on in their own lives that drive what they're saying."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.