Josh Hamilton took strong exception to Angels owner Arte Moreno’s comments suggesting that Hamilton lacked “accountability” by suffering a substance-abuse relapse that ultimately led to the troubled outfielder getting traded to the Texas Rangers on Monday.
“I have no clue what he’s talking about,” Hamilton said during a news conference at Globe Life Park in Texas, his first comments since he reported his relapse to Major League Baseball in early February. “I showed up every day and played hard when I was there. I hadn’t been the player they wanted me to be, I know I haven’t been, but I worked my butt off this winter to be that player.
“They just didn’t want that to happen for some reason. It doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me mad, but I prepared. [Moreno] knew what the deal was when he signed me. Hands down, he knew what he was getting. He knew what the risks were. He knew all those things. Under the [joint drug agreement], it is what it is.”
Hamilton, who has had a long and well-chronicled addiction to cocaine and alcohol, was a five-time All-Star and the 2010 American League most valuable player in Texas from 2008-12, but he was a bust in Anaheim after signing a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels.
In 2013, Hamilton hit a career-low .250 with 21 homers and 79 runs batted in. He hit .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 89 games in an injury-marred 2014 and was booed at home as he went hitless in 13 at-bats in a division series sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.
When an arbitrator ruled on April 3 that Hamilton had not violated his drug treatment program and could not be suspended, Angels President John Carpino said the ruling “defies logic,” and General Manager Jerry Dipoto said he had “serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior.”
Moreno said he was “disappointed” in Hamilton and refused to say Hamilton would play for the Angels again, claiming Hamilton’s contract contained language that would protect the Angels from a relapse.
“More than anything, we look at accountability,” Moreno said at the time. “With all of our players and all of our employees, we look for accountability.”
Hamilton underwent right-shoulder surgery on Feb. 4 and never reported to spring training in Arizona, choosing to rehabilitate his injury at a friend’s ranch in the Houston area. The Angels pulled Hamilton-related merchandise from team stores and did not issue him a locker in the Angel Stadium clubhouse.
Had the Angels embraced him after his relapse, “I would have been in spring training and playing a month ago,” said Hamilton, 34. “I need baseball. I love baseball. I’ve been playing baseball since I was 3. But baseball is coming to an end soon.
“The reason I’m making certain changes in my life is I want to be OK after baseball is over. I’ve done a lot of growing, learning and soul-searching over the last few weeks. I’m excited about being a Ranger, about playing for fans again and ending my career by having fun.”
The trade of Hamilton to the Rangers was for a player to be named or cash, with the teams agreeing to complete the transaction by an unspecified date.
Hamilton has three years and about $80 million left on his contract. The Rangers will reportedly pick up less than $7 million of it, and Hamilton is expected to forfeit at least $12 million to the Angels to offset the benefit he will derive by playing in Texas, where there is no state income tax.
So the Angels, in effect, are paying Hamilton roughly $60 million to play for a division rival. They also made the deal without sending him to triple-A Salt Lake for a rehabilitation assignment during which they could have evaluated whether Hamilton could still be a productive player.
Had Hamilton shown glimpses of his All-Star form or a swing that showed some potential, the Angels, who are also struggling to score runs, might have benefited from his return or gotten a better return in a trade.
“We determined as an organization that this is the right move for us,” Dipoto said on a conference call. “It was something we determined some time ago. … This is not the way we envisioned any of this playing out when we signed Josh, but at the end of the day, we felt this was the best for the team, to be able to clear the air and move forward with 25 guys we have on the field today.”
Was Dipoto ordered by Moreno to trade Hamilton?
“We run as an organization,” Dipoto said. “The baseball operations group, the front office, the field staff … everyone has communicated very clearly on this. We have made our decision, one that is in the best interest of the organization. This was not an order to do anything other than the right thing as an organization.”
Dipoto said he had trade talks with other teams, but Hamilton has a full no-trade clause and expressed a strong desire to return to Texas, where he makes his off-season home, so the Rangers were the best and probably only fit.
“This is a transaction that puts Josh back where he wanted to be,” Dipoto said. “That was made very clear through the course of this.”
Does Dipoto believe Hamilton can still be a productive player?
“That’s up to Josh,” he said.
Hamilton, who will report to the Rangers’ extended spring-training camp in Arizona on Tuesday and then go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment, thinks he has something to offer.
“I’m not over the hill,” said Hamilton, who will now be tested for drugs and alcohol five times a week, up from his three-times-a-week testing in recent years. “I got my shoulder cleaned up. I’ve been working in cage. I feel really good as far as my mental state of mind and physical well being.
“Wherever you want to put me, left field, center field, first base, catcher, designated hitter, it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to be here. I want to be part of a team that loves each other, that has good team chemistry and wants to leave everything on the field.”