Presented with an inquiry that was not about Jerry Dipoto, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia couldn’t help but express his relief Wednesday before a series finale between his team and the New York Yankees.
“God bless you for that baseball question,” Scioscia said.
The Angels were off Thursday, giving players and staff members a temporary respite from the drama regarding Dipoto, the general manager who abruptly resigned. But if Scioscia is expecting to be asked about Xs and O’s when his club begins a three-game series against the Texas Rangers, he’s out of luck.
Friday marks the first meeting between Josh Hamilton and his former team since he was traded in late April. That saga — unlike the Dipoto situation this week — lasted for months, not days, with plenty of private grievances aired publicly.
To recap: In early February, Hamilton voluntarily reported a cocaine and alcohol relapse to Major League Baseball. On April 3, an independent arbitrator ruled that Hamilton shouldn’t be suspended for providing MLB officials with information about his relapse.
The arbitrator’s decision confounded Angels owner Arte Moreno and the team’s front office, and they began looking for ways to get out of the three years that remained on Hamilton’s contract.
Meanwhile, teammates of Hamilton, increasingly aware that his days as an Angel were numbered, defended his character, with pitcher C.J. Wilson even levying accusations back at the organization.
“When the Angels first signed me they hired a private detective to follow me around because they were mad that I was riding motorcycles,” Wilson said.
Then-general manager Dipoto denied Wilson’s statement, saying it was “100% not true.”
After Hamilton was traded on April 27, Scioscia, who generally took a sympathetic stance toward the left fielder, changed his tune.
“I know he got a lot of support from the guys in that clubhouse,” Scioscia said. “For him not to show at least a little remorse toward his teammates I just think is wrong.”
Roughly two months later, Scioscia doubled down on his criticism.
“I’m hoping he’ll take the opportunity to thank the teammates that supported him,” Scioscia said. “Again, 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 Thursday, Hamilton told reporters from the Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram that before his trade to Texas, he did try to contact Moreno through Dipoto and team President John Carpino.
“I reached out [to them]. ‘Can I speak to Arte, just to assure him that I’m not the guy that you got right now but I’m working to become that guy again?’ And I was always turned down,” Hamilton said. “‘We’ll make sure he gets the message.’ I don’t know if he got the message or not.”
Hamilton is taking on the Angels a few days removed from a trip to the disabled list for a strained left hamstring. He told reporters that he “wouldn’t say there’s any extra motivation to stick it to them.”
“The only thought I have is it will be good to see the guys,” Hamilton said. “I had my short stint over there, and it didn’t go the way I wanted it to for me. Wherever I go play, I try to perform the best I can, and I didn’t do it there. For that, I feel bad.”
Angels players already wary of how to respond to the Dipoto resignation took a measured tone when asked about Hamilton. Left fielder Kole Calhoun said that Hamilton is “a good friend, a great teammate,” but that “we’re focused on 25 guys in here.”
Closer Huston Street responded similarly.
“You’ve got to treat that situation just like another opponent,” Street said. “At this point, that’s what he is. He plays for another team and there’s ways to get him out. We gotta attack it that way. Obviously, there will be more of a hype around it because of everything that’s going on now and before. But you get out on the field, and it’s just baseball.”
Wilson, who played with Hamilton in Texas and Los Angeles for six years, acknowledged the unique circumstances that come with the weekend series.
“There’s that added little gamesmanship to it, so I’ll probably stare at him and pretend like I’m going to throw him all fastballs,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of history of friendship there, and a lot of Xbox games. But he’s just another guy with a bat on the other team that I’m trying to strike out.”
Right-hander Garrett Richards (8-5, 3.54 earned-run average) will oppose Texas right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez (2-3, 2.59) at Globe Life Park on Friday at 5 p.m. TV: FS West; Radio: 830, 1330.