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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Josh Hamilton chewing tobacco again, has gone on hitting streak

Josh Hamilton has finally shown signs of breaking out of a season-long slump for the Los Angeles Angels, and the chatter around Angel Stadium is that his hot streak coincides with his decision to resume his habit of chewing tobacco.

Hamilton is batting .223 on the season with 82 strikeouts in 79 games. His OPS, which is currently .672, has never been higher than .743 at any point in the season. He has been moved down in the lineup and given off days, but nothing helped.

Presently, Hamilton is on a 7-game hitting streak, which is his longest of the season and also coincides with the Angels’ 7-game winning streak. Hamilton is 10 for his last 25 (.400) with four doubles, four RBIs, and four walks. The image below shows him packing a huge wad of tobacco in his cheek during Sunday’s game, in which he went 1-for-2 with two walks and an RBI double:

Josh Hamilton tobacco

Could Hamilton’s hitting streak have to do with him resuming his tobacco habit?

The Los Angeles Times’ Mike DiGiovanna says Hamilton began chewing tobacco again at the beginning of the team’s last road trip, which is when both streaks began. Hamilton skirted the issue when DiGiovanna asked him about a possible correlation.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Hamilton told The Times. “It could be anything. It could be one of those protein bars. Is this really a story?”

Yes, it definitely is a story. Hamilton had a scorching start last season, posting an OPS over 1.180 in both April and May. He clubbed 21 home runs in those first two months. But Hamilton went cold after that, hitting .223 in June and .177 in July. His dip in production was attributed to him trying to quit tobacco. Without the tobacco, Hamilton turned to caffeine, which he consumed in excess, leading to vision problems and a 5-game absence.

After the season, Rangers executive Nolan Ryan said Hamilton could not have picked a worse time to quit tobacco.

Hamilton’s baseball career was infamously derailed by drug addiction. The Angels outfielder has battled to stay sober since resuming his career in 2007 and has even had some relapses. Would this be considered a relapse? Probably not, but it could raise an interesting moral quandary: should Hamilton continue chewing tobacco if it helps him on the field?

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