ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Josh Hamilton expected to be booed in his first game back at Angel Stadium with the Texas Rangers.
After all, he got booed plenty here even when he was still wearing the Los Angeles Angels’ uniform.
Back in the visitors’ dugout at the Big A on Friday, Hamilton acknowledged he is still disappointed about the way his dismal tenure with the Angels ended. After two seasons of mediocre hitting culminated in a hitless postseason performance last October, Hamilton was shipped back to Texas by the Angels in April shortly after the slugger had his latest struggle with sobriety.
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”It means something,” Hamilton said. ”Anytime you spent time in a place, it always means something coming back.”
Hamilton said he never got a response when he reached out to Angels owner Arte Moreno early this season through team president John Carpino and general manager Jerry Dipoto, who abruptly quit his job earlier this month. Hamilton said he doesn’t feel a current need to apologize to Moreno, who ended up paying Hamilton $105 million for those two seasons.
”I would have loved to talk to Arte, just to sit down with him and let him know I wanted to be the kind of player he got and was paying for,” Hamilton said, repeating his earlier sentiments after Moreno’s reticence. ”I put the work in and the time in to be that guy. Whether it was related to him or not, once it gets out of my hands, it’s not my problem anymore.”
Los Angeles got nothing close to Hamilton’s best play. The left fielder struggled from his first weeks in an Angels jersey, batting .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBIs in his first season.
Injuries limited him to 89 games last season, and he contributed 10 homers and 44 RBIs before going 0 for 13 in the Angels’ division series loss to Kansas City. Hamilton occasionally was booed at home from his opening weeks with the Angels, culminating in Hamilton’s declaration last fall that he didn’t play for the fans.
No fan was angrier than Moreno, who clearly expected more for his lavish contract. Moreno stunned the baseball world by signing the slugger to a five-year, $125 million free-agent deal before the 2013 season, coveting the left-handed bat and game-changing power showed by Hamilton in his five All-Star seasons for the Rangers.
”Looking at it now, the way things went down and the way they happened, I did my part,” Hamilton said. ”I don’t think I need to go to Arte and apologize to him for anything. I’ve talked to many guys on that team, and they know where I’m at. They told me I don’t owe them anything. So as long as I’m OK with those guys, then I ain’t worried about anybody else.”
Hamilton’s name and photo were booed loudly during pregame introductions Friday night, but Hamilton knows what to expect. Texas fans booed him in 2013 when he returned to Arlington with the Angels.
”It’s funny, because when I was playing with the Angels and A.J. Pierzynski would come in, they would boo him,” Hamilton said. ”And a couple of guys would make a comment like: `I wish they’d stop booing him, because he’s killing us.’ So hopefully it’s the same scenario.”
Hamilton batted sixth for the Rangers on Friday night and played left field. But after an excellent start to his return to Texas, his play lately has resembled his Angels efforts.
He began the weekend in a 6-for-31 slump, part of his 12-for-54 struggle since returning from the disabled list June 30.
”He’s just a guy who’s looking for his timing and rhythm,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. ”When we first got him, he came in and felt really good. The timing and rhythm was there, and then he had to take the time off with the hamstring. Since he’s come back, it’s really the pitch selection and the rhythm and timing that has given him the challenge.”
Banister’s diagnosis is similar to Angels manager Mike Scioscia’s comments in the previous two seasons. When Hamilton was traded, Scioscia said Hamilton owed an apology to his Angels teammates, and the longest-tenured manager in baseball affirmed that sentiment Friday.
”I think everybody still feels the same way, and we’ve got a lot of things more important right now,” Scioscia said. ”We certainly wish him well, and we’re going to try to get him out.”