On Thursday night, before playing the Angels for the first time since being abruptly traded earlier this season, Josh Hamilton slept fitfully. He got only a few hours’ rest.
There was much to think about, he said. The Texas Rangers’ plane arrived at a late hour from their trip from Baltimore. He had a drug test early in the morning. His four daughters arrived soon after.
But the Angels? They had nothing to do with it.
“Literally, guys,” he said, “I don’t think about the Angels at night when I sleep or go to bed. It’s done. It’s over.”
Before Friday, an 8-2 Angels win, it had been more than two months since the conclusion of the bitter, and at times personal, dispute between Hamilton and Angels owner Arte Moreno over Hamilton’s relapse in his battle with drugs and alcohol. It ended in Hamilton being traded to a division rival and the Angels eating most of his salary.
A throng of television cameras and reporters waited by Hamilton’s locker before the game. He said he felt no emotions about the game, and he spoke in a slow and sedate voice.
“There’s no searching or closure for me,” he said. “It’s over. I’ve moved on. I’m in Texas now.”
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia agreed.
“To be honest with you,” he said, “we haven’t really thought about Josh much.”
Given the drama surrounding the team this season — a scuffling offense, a power struggle between Scioscia and General Manager Jerry Dipoto that led to Dipoto’s resignation — that would be hard to argue. Yet twice since the trade, Scioscia has twice called on Hamilton to apologize to his former team.
Earlier in the week, Scioscia said, “I really think that he should reach out to Arte and let Arte know that some of the things he did weren’t what he signed up to do.”
On Friday, Hamilton said he hasn’t spoken with Moreno since his relapse. But he tried.
“When I was working my butt off to get better, I asked multiple times, [team President] John Carpino and Jerry Dipoto if I could meet with Arte and talk to him, just let him know that I was working hard,” Hamilton said. “Denied. They said they would pass him on the message. I take it as they passed him the message. If they didn’t, it’s on them.”
Hamilton said his relationship with Moreno had never been particularly close.
“I don’t think I expected really anything,” he said. “But to say a player wants to speak with his owner, a guy who’s paying his salary, you’d think that would maybe be a priority.”
Hamilton said he has moved on now. The game, he said, had no extra significance to him.
And so, in the second inning, Hamilton adjusted his gloves, knocked the dirt out of his spikes and dug into the batter’s box of what he called “just another baseball game.” He peered out at the pitcher, right-hander Garrett Richards. In his first at-bat, he struck out on a weak swing at a curveball in the dirt, and he struck out again in his second at-bat. Then, in the sixth inning, he lined a double down the right-field line.
“To me it was just another hitter,” Richards said.
After leading both leagues in runs scored last season, the Angels entered Friday 24th this year. At a team meeting before Dipoto’s resignation, first baseman Albert Pujols reportedly confronted him over the roster’s potency.
Would keeping Hamilton have helped?
Through Friday, Hamilton has played in 10 games with the Rangers. He has two home runs, both in the same game, and is batting .303. Last year, in 89 games with the Angels, he batted .263 with 10 home runs and 44 runs batted in.
The Angels had no problem with offense Friday. They used a six-run second inning to claim the lead. Erick Aybar was five for five with two RBIs.
Since his relapse, the Angels clubhouse has been generally supportive of Hamilton. One of his fiercest defenders, C.J. Wilson, said Hamilton owes them nothing.
“The debt to me personally has sort of been paid,” he said.