Players and coaches insist that the Josh Hamilton saga was not a distraction for them on or off the field, but it helped obscure one important fact: The Angels have not been playing very good baseball.
Perhaps a 6-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night will spark them. Johnny Giavotella snapped a 3-3 tie with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning, and Mike Trout added a two-run double for a three-run lead.
But that still left the Angels with a mediocre 10-11 record and four-game deficit behind Houston in the American League West. It's early, but 21 games is a decent sample size.
"It's not like we're playing bad baseball," catcher Chris Iannetta said, "but we're not playing to our potential."
There are issues in the rotation. Jered Weaver has lost more velocity on his fastball and is off to the worst start (0-3, 5.83 earned-run average) of his career.
C.J. Wilson had fluid drained from his left elbow after his last start but will pitch through the discomfort. He threw in the bullpen Tuesday and said he felt "way better than I did going into my last start."
And the Angels could be without No.3 hitter Albert Pujols for a few days after the first baseman left the game Wednesday in the sixth because of left-hamstring tightness, an injury he suffered running to first on a single.
Pujols is hitting .208, but the Angels can't afford to lose him. Outside of a 14-run, 15-hit outburst against Oakland on April 21, an offense that led the AL with 773 runs in 2014 has been relatively quiet, limited to three runs or fewer in 12 of 21 games.
The Angels entered Wednesday ranked 24th in the major leagues in average (.226), 26th in on-base percentage (.291) and slugging (.348) and 22nd in hitting with runners in scoring position (.229).
"There are guys who we know are better offensive performers than they've shown," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully a comfort level will start to form and these guys will start to do the things they've historically done."
Trout (.315, five homers, 14 RBIs, Kole Calhoun (.309, three homers, 10 RBIs) and Giavotella (.317) have been productive, but Iannetta (.093), Matt Joyce (.143), Erick Aybar (.211) and Pujols have hit far below their career norms. David Freese leads the team with 15 RBIs but is batting .210.
It's like one guy has a good game and we all kind of struggle," Iannetta said. "Once guys get their swings, timing and rhythm, it should be fun."
As anemic as the offense has been, Iannetta likes the overall health of the club.
"It's kind of comforting to know we haven't played to our potential in many facets and we're still right around .500," he said. "Like I said last year, you strive to play .500 ball most of the time, you get hot and win five straight four times. Do that, and you're 20 games over .500 and in a good spot."
The players are probably more patient than Angels fans.
"I know it's different from the fans' perspective — they want to win now, and they see a loss as much bigger than we do at times, especially in April," Iannetta said. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's the fun part of being a fan.
"But you can't be on top of your game wire to wire. Few teams in the history of the game have done that. If you look at us last year, we played .500 for the most part, got hot a couple of times and won 98 games. That's how good teams do it."