While Angels owner Arte Moreno has taken a hard-line stance toward Josh Hamilton, whose substance-abuse relapse has triggered an ugly dispute between the player and the organization, Manager Mike Scioscia’s comments and actions have struck a tone of reconciliation toward the outfielder.
Whether that is a factor in Hamilton ever playing again for the Angels remains to be seen, but by reaching out to Hamilton as the team is set to be in Houston later this week, Scioscia is at least treating the outfielder like he is still a member of the organization.
Hamilton has been rehabilitating from right-shoulder surgery in Houston and has not been with the team so far this season. The Angels have an off-day Thursday before opening a three-game series against the Astros on Friday night, and Scioscia plans to touch base with Hamilton, most likely in person.
“There are absolutely times you want to sit down and get a personal connection with a player,” Scioscia said before Wednesday’s game against the Texas Rangers. “If it happens, it happens. The important thing is communication, knowing that a support unit is there. I’m going to feel better if there’s that support group there and he’s getting the help he needs.”
An arbitrator determined that Hamilton did not violate baseball’s drug policy and cannot be suspended, but Moreno has claimed the team included language in Hamilton’s contract that forbade him from drinking or using drugs.
Asked if Hamilton would play another game for the club, Moreno said, “I will not say that.” He added that he might challenge Hamilton’s ability to collect his full salary -- there is $83 million left on the final three years of Hamilton’s contract.
The players union responded by saying such language had not been approved and that it would “not supersede the provisions of the joint drug agreement and/or the basic agreement.”
Hamilton was not issued a locker in the Angel Stadium clubhouse, and merchandise bearing his name and number has been pulled from stadium team stores.
At least one player, pitcher and union representative C.J. Wilson, has been critical of the team’s handling of Hamilton, and several players have expressed frustration that though Hamilton was deemed by an arbitrator to be in baseball’s good graces, he is not with the team.
“We’ve talked to some players,” Scioscia said. “This has been a process for all of us. We have to concentrate on what’s here and how we need to play the game. That’s where our focus has to be.
“That teammate, player-to-player bond is strong in our clubhouse, so it doesn’t surprise me that some guys would wonder about that, but it’s no distraction.”