Hamilton Officially Signs With Angels; Team Payroll Now Around $165M
Saturday marked "another new beginning" for Angels LF Josh Hamilton, whose five-year, $125M contract was made official, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. TIMES. The Angels' pursuit of Hamilton "began in early December at the winter meetings in Nashville, where [GM Jerry] Dipoto, while telling reporters he was '100% focused on pitching,' had a lengthy lunch meeting" with Hamilton and his wife, Katie. Angels Owner Arte Moreno, his wife, Carole, and President John Carpino "flew to Texas to meet Hamilton at his home Monday." But Hamilton said things did not get "serious" until Wednesday, when the Angels made their formal offer. Hamilton: "They like to get after it. They like to get things done." He "didn't get that same feeling from" his former team, the Rangers. Hamilton said, "I gave them everything I had for five years. I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me a little bit that they didn't put the press on." DiGiovanna reported Hamilton's "heavily back-loaded contract includes a $10-million signing bonus, payable up front, and salaries of $15 million in 2013 and 2014, $23 million in 2015 and $30 million in 2016 and 2017." As part of the deal, which "includes a full no-trade clause and use of a luxury suite, the Angels will make a $2-million donation to Hamilton's charitable foundation." There is "no language in the contract protecting the Angels from a relapse involving drugs or alcohol." But Hamilton must "undergo three drug tests per week, and he is subject to penalties under baseball's joint drug program should he test positive." The Angels also hired Shayne Kelley, Hamilton's "accountability partner" last year with the Rangers. Kelley will "travel with the Angels and serve as Hamilton's chaperone, confidant and advisor" (L.A. TIMES, 12/16).
BRINGING THE BUZZ: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes the Angels "delightfully did what they always seem to do this time of year." They gave their fans the "gift of hope, they gave Dodgers fans the lumpy coals of annoyance, and they filled the Southern California sports landscape with the blessing of buzz." Moreno said, "Think about how much fun it's going to be. Dodger fans and Angel fans get to argue about whose team is better, who's stronger, who's weaker … do you know how much fun it's going to be?" He added, "We have every statistical analysis but the reality is, at the end of the day, people want hope. I look at this positively and I said, 'I hope'" (L.A. TIMES, 12/17). The Dodgers' new ownership group is pushing the team's payroll over $215M, and Moreno said, "I think it's just great. I'll tell you why I think it's great: Because those fans have been invested in that team since they moved here in '58, and they've had great success." MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez noted Moreno "intended to go into the offseason with a payroll between $140 and $145 million." He said, "We just made a decision in saying we have to get a couple relievers and a couple pitchers and try to take care of business then. Then if I want to bust the budget like I did last year, I just say, 'If there's a crack in the door, and we have a shot at getting one of the best players ...'" Hamilton's contract "puts the Angels' 2013 payroll at roughly $165 million, which would be a franchise record and $5 million more than they finished at last year" (MLB.com, 12/15).
THE ARTE OF WAR: ESPN.com's Howard Bryant said without the "bluster and vitriol of George Steinbrenner," Moreno has become the "owner in baseball to watch." Bryant: "He likes big stars, big names and isn’t afraid of a big payroll. Sound familiar? He also likes to win, not just on the field, but to be the signature team in Los Angeles" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN2, 12/16). In L.A., Steve Dilbeck wrote under the header, "Is Angels Owner Arte Moreno Obsessed With The Dodgers?" Dilbeck: "It's kind of strange, Moreno's fixation with the team from Chavez Ravine." It is almost "as if he goes to bed every night wresting with thoughts of how he can usurp the Dodgers' spell over Los Angeles" (LATIMES.com, 12/16). But Moreno insisted that he "wasn't trying to keep up" with the Dodgers. The AP's Beth Harris reported dozens of Angels fans "lined up outside a restaurant where Hamilton was introduced." The team had a table "set up for ticket sales, and he signed autographs on his way inside" (AP, 12/16).
HIGH-STAKES GAMBLING: In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore writes, "I can't help feel a sense of trepidation as our baseball teams enter their new eras of free-spending, win-at-all-costs operations when recent history suggests moderately priced payrolls are just as likely to win it all as high-priced ones." Bonsignore: "I'm just wondering if fans will get stuck with a hefty bill at some point." That is "not even pondering the worst-case scenario for Angels fans -- their team fleeing Anaheim for Los Angeles in search of a stadium and location that creates better revenue streams" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 12/17).
STUCK IN THEIR WAYS: In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway wrote it has been a "brutal winter" for the Rangers. They appear "foolish, but worse yet, they also have come across as absolutely clueless, with some arrogance thrown in." The Rangers have been "everybody's darlings, not only locally, but also nationally." But it appears "some front-office egos got in the way" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/16).