Los Angeles Times
ALL OF A PEACE
Hamilton’s in a good place emotionally, and Angels fans may be moving on too
Outfielder Josh Hamilton said he has found a sense of serenity in Texas, now that his brief and troubled stay as an Angel is behind him and he has been allowed to see his daughters since he filed for divorce from their mother. “I think that’s been my biggest peace,” he said, “to be able to focus on just my girls and baseball.”
It’s unlikely that his new tranquillity was greatly disturbed Friday in his first visit to Anaheim since the Angels traded him back to the Rangers in late April. Making his seventh straight start after recovering from hamstring and groin injuries, he was booed when he caught a fly ball in the first inning, drew jeers and cheers when he struck out swinging in the second inning, and triggered a similarly mixed reaction when he lined a double off the rightfield fence in the fifth. “I wasn’t dreading it,” he said before Friday’s
‘Looking at it now, I hate the way things went down. I hate the way they happened. I own my part. I don’t feel like I need to go apologize to him for anything.’ — JOSH HAMILTON, on his awkward separation from the Angels and owner Arte Moreno
game. “I’m not dreading it now.”
There wasn’t much to dread, really. The intensity of fans’ emotions flared and faded quickly, perhaps signaling that like Hamilton — who hit only 31 home runs in two seasons with the Angels and experienced a substance abuse relapse last winter but escaped a suspension — they’ve moved on to a better emotional place.
“I hope it has worked out for him,” Angels reliever Huston Street said. “I hope he’s in a good place. More than anything, everybody in here wanted him to recover personally. Baseball aside, I think that was everybody’s first priority.”
Hamilton is batting .250 in 22 games after going two for four and scoring twice Friday. He has three home runs and eight runs batted in. He said he’s feeling fine physically and mentally and is more comfortable in the batter’s box since he has been playing consistently. He said he’s happy being back with the Rangers, who lost him to the Angels on a five-year, $125-million free-agent deal, on which the Angels are still paying more than $60 million of the $80plus-million that remained when they traded him back to Texas in April.
“Any time you spend time in a place, there’s some sweat and work. It always means something coming back,” he said during an informal pregame news conference in the Rangers’ dugout. “But for a lot of years I played on this side against the Angels and went over there and played for a couple and back over here now. It feels normal to be on this side over here.”
His path back there wasn’t smooth. He said he had the blessing of then-Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto to undergo shoulder surgery in early February, even though it meant he wouldn’t be ready for spring training. He went to Houston to rehab and await instructions on when to rejoin the team, not knowing the Angels didn’t even designate a locker for him at their spring training facility in Tempe, Ariz.
“And as it got about a couple weeks before spring training, we asked when do they want me to show up and rehab and all that stuff,” Hamilton said, referring to him and his agent, Mike Moye. “They said, ‘Well, we don’t want you to show up in the spring. You can rehab in Dallas, you can rehab in Houston, you can rehab in Timbuktu, just don’t come.’ ”
That response, Hamilton said, left him “probably a little bit kind of scared, I guess you’d say, and fearful maybe as far as certainty and what was going on because after that there was no contact.”
An Angels spokesman said Friday the club would have no comment. Dipoto did not return a message left by Times baseball writer Bill Shaikin.
Hamilton said he has reached out to Angels owner Arte Moreno but never spoke to him. “I’d love to just sit down with him and let him know I want to be the player he paid for and I put in the work and time to be that guy,” Hamilton said. “Whether it was relayed to him or not, once it gets out of my hands it’s not my problem anymore.
“Looking at it now, I hate the way things went down. I hate the way they happened. I own my part. I don’t feel like I need to go apologize to him for anything.”
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said after the trade he thought Hamilton should have thanked his teammates publicly for their support through his time here, a contention Scioscia repeated Friday. “I think it’s recognition, just a recognition of how these guys stood by him and supported him and we’ll just leave it at that. I think we’ve talked enough about that,” Scioscia said.
Hamilton said he has communicated that privately to several of his former Angels teammates. “It’s nice to know what kind of guys you’ve got over there. Character guys,” he said. “It means a lot.”
It means a lot, too, that the Angels moved past so much turmoil to overtake Houston atop the American League West, though the teams are now virtually tied for first place. Hamilton’s situation, Dipoto’s resignation and the loss of opening-day starter Jered Weaver to a hip injury could have derailed them. Instead, they were 13-4 in July [before Friday] and have shown admirable resilience.
Scioscia attributed their success to strong clubhouse leadership that prevents players from becoming distracted. “And I think that’s important when you’ve had some turbulent things happen, and we’ve had our share of them,” he said. “Starting with Josh and what went on a couple weeks ago [with Dipoto]. Our guys are about one thing, and that’s playing the game hard and trying to win.”
They’re facing another obstacle with third baseman David Freese expected to miss two to three weeks because of a fractured finger. Whether the Angels’ depth will allow them to continue progressing at an impressive pace will soon become apparent. But it’s clear they’ve moved on past the expensive mistake of signing Hamilton, and so has he.