ANAHEIM, Calif. — Downtown Disney was full of eager Los Angeles Angels fans Saturday morning as they lined up for their first glance at owner Arte Moreno’s latest nine-figure toy.
The fans were split by a long red carpet, laid over a concrete sidewalk for Josh Hamilton to parade along on his way to being introduced as the newest Angel in the outfield.
The red carpet, it turns out, was what Hamilton wanted all along during his first, and perhaps only, chance to be a major-league free agent.
Oh, the green Moreno will shell out through 2017 didn’t hurt in luring Hamilton away from the Texas Rangers, but the love fest Saturday was just an extension of the affection the Angels used to overwhelm the five-time All-Star.
It turns out that the Rangers’ tactic of letting Hamilton test the market left him feeling unwanted.
Hamilton needed to feel loved, and the Angels opened their arms.
“They like to get after it. They like to get things done,” Hamilton said. “I was excited to see they were excited, to see a team and see people really pursue and want you as part of their organization.”
Hamilton agreed to a five-year, $125 million contract after only three days of negotiations with the Angels, who first met with him earlier this month at the winter meetings.
Moreno, his wife and Angels president John Carpino met with Hamilton at his Westlake, Texas, home Monday, and the Angels made their offer Wednesday. Hamilton’s agent, Mike Moye, informed the Rangers on Thursday that the Angels had won the bidding.
In the end, Hamilton and wife Katie compared free agency to a courtship, and they started to have feelings for another team.
“My take on it was we were with them for five years, and if you’re going to date somebody and they’re going to be your man or your woman, you make it official and make it known pretty quick or at some point that you want to be with them,” said Katie, as she sat at the dais with her husband and Angels officials.
“They let us date other teams. Josh said he would give them the first chance, and they didn’t take him up on that. So, they let us go out and date people and give our hearts away.”
Said Hamilton, finishing his wife’s thought: “They didn’t put a ring on it.”
The Rangers’ initial attempts to negotiate with Hamilton last off-season were derailed by his second public relapse with alcohol. The sides spoke later in spring training and again the first two months of the season before agreeing to wait until after the season to talk again.
Their pursuit of Hamilton picked up at the winter meetings, where Hamilton met with Moye and discussed a deal that could have been competitive with the Angels’ bid but didn’t guarantee as much money.
Daniels invited Hamilton to his home Dec. 7, when Hamilton first indicated that perhaps it was time to move on. A meeting with team president Nolan Ryan had been scheduled for Wednesday, but an ailing Ryan pushed the meeting back a day.
At that point, the Angels had overwhelmed Hamilton with love and money. The Rangers were out.
“Looking at it now, I think it’s a blessing in disguise,” Hamilton said. “I gave them everything I had for five years, so I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t bother me a little bit, that they didn’t put the press on.”
Hamilton, though, rolled his eyes at the notion that Texas was the safest place for him to be. He will continue to make Texas his off-season home, but he said he will remain clean and sober as long as he has his support network close to him.
Hamilton used the early portion of the news conference to briefly thank the Rangers, who acquired him in December 2007 in a trade from Cincinnati, for helping him be successful.
Among the things the Rangers did was hire a special assignments coach to be with Hamilton during the season. That person was Johnny Narron for four seasons before he left to become the hitting coach in Milwaukee.
Shayne Kelley took over last winter and will join Hamilton in Anaheim.
Hamilton later said that he kept his Thursday meeting with Ryan at Rangers Ballpark.
“Katie and I both went up there and expressed our happiness and gratitude for them and what they’ve done for us the last few years,” Hamilton said. “He said he understood. He’s been there. And he said he also understood that you wouldn’t be able to play somewhere if you feel like they didn’t give you everything to try to keep you there.”
Hamilton also said that Ryan apologized to him for his midseason comments about Hamilton’s drop-off in performance.
“Man to man, he just apologized for it,” Hamilton said.
But Hamilton said he didn’t remember saying that he would give the Rangers a last chance to match the best offer he received, which stands as the final point of contention in this breakup.
Daniels was never expecting a chance to match. There was an understanding that Hamilton would come back to the Rangers with a feel for the market, not necessarily an offer to match, and the sides would negotiate at that point. But that never happened, apparently because the Angels’ offer proved to be so overwhelming.
“It’s one of those things where I’m not going to get offers from this team and say this team offered this and bid everybody against each other. We don’t work that way,” Hamilton said. “Offer what you want to offer. That’s fine. That’s the way that worked.”
But Hamilton also needed to feel loved. The Angels rolled out the red carpet, and won his heart.
“That’s what a player wants to see,” Hamilton said.