Sports

Stoneman Says Molina Was Treated Honorably

ContractsDominican RepublicNew York MetsMike SciosciaOmar MinayaPaul Lo Duca

Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman challenged Bengie Molina's claim that the Angels let him go "without a notice, without calling me," saying he spoke with agent Alan Nero, and Manager Mike Scioscia spoke with Molina, both before and after the team's Dec. 7 decision to sever ties with the veteran catcher. Molina's representative also confirmed Stoneman's account.

"We handled it the way we usually handle these things — I deal with the agent and Mike deals with the player," Stoneman said. "We were up front. We weren't hiding anything. I know Bengie wanted to come back, and obviously he was disappointed, but when we broke ties with him, there was not a lack of communication."

Molina saw things differently, his bitterness toward the Angels surfacing during his introductory news conference Thursday in Toronto. The Blue Jays signed Molina to a one-year, $5-million contract with an option for 2007.

"I think I built a good relationship with them," Molina said of the Angels. "They never let me know. They just threw me [out] like a piece of trashÂ…. I don't think I did one thing to disrespect them all those years. If anything, I went out of my way for them. I even helped them get Bartolo Colon on that club. I gave him a call. I called a couple of guys for them. And now when I needed a call, they never called me."

The Angels never made a contract offer to Molina, 31, who hit .295 with 15 home runs and 69 runs batted in last season, and did not offer arbitration by a Dec. 7 deadline, opening the catching job for Jose Molina — Bengie's brother — and rookie Jeff Mathis.

"Mike had a conversation with Bengie, and it wasn't just for a few minutes, it went on for a while," Stoneman said. "It wasn't the information Bengie wanted to hear, but he wasn't left without getting a call."

Nero said Molina spoke out of frustration Thursday.

"All of what Stoneman said is 100% true," Nero said. "Bengie made it clear he was an Angel his whole career and wanted to remain an Angel. Bill was clear with me, he was honest, but he didn't speak to Bengie directly. Mike called Bengie, but that didn't make it any easier on Bengie.

"Bengie put his body on the line every day for the organization, Mike was his mentor, and he felt hurt. Everyone is telling the truth here. The reality is you have people who care about each other, and saying goodbye is tough. Bengie, in a way, is still grieving, and him expressing his feelings made it more of a negative than it is."

Molina also disputed reports that he turned down a three-year, $18-million offer from the New York Mets in November. Such speculation fueled a perception that Molina and his agent vastly overplayed their hand in the free-agent market.

"What happened with the Mets is very simple," Molina said. "People think I turned down big money for nothing. It didn't happen that way.

"They offered me something and two days later we went back to them wanting to start negotiations. They said, 'We're dealing with [Carlos] Delgado.' "Then two days later they were dealing with Billy Wagner. Then they said call us on the weekend.

"We called [GM Omar Minaya] on the weekend and he was in the Dominican Republic. When he came back, he came back with the Paul Lo Duca trade [from Florida]. We never really had a chance to talk about anything. I don't think people know this. That's what really happened."

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