Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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By David Saltzer - AngelsWin.com Senior Writer

Change it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fall that’s all . . .

Let’s face it: the 2012 season has not gone according to plans for the Angels. Who could have imagined that a team with this much talent would stumble out of the gate this badly?

There’s plenty of blame to be spread around for this mess, but, the Angels have wasted no time in addressing one of the core problems: the offense. The only people finding the offense offensive is the fans, not the opposition. A lineup with Pujols, Trumbo, Morales, Hunter, Kendrick and Wells should have done more damage than a porcelain wrecking ball. Something had to be done, and, tonight it happened: The Angels relieved Mickey Hatcher as the team’s Hitting Coach.

Two confessions: Over the years, I have met Mickey Hatcher many times and talked with him both on and off the record. In those encounters, he has always been polite and cordial. On the field, he’s funny. As a person, I like him. In fact, in all of my dealings with the Angels, I have never heard anything untoward said about Hatcher as a person.

Second, all things being equal, I do not believe that people should be penalized for the mistakes of others. Firing the hitting coach for the poor performance of the team is akin to firing teachers for the poor performance of students on meaningless standardized tests. Both have limited to negligible control over the situations, so, both are essentially punished for the mistakes of others.

However, the Angels had no choice but to remove Mickey Hatcher. With 13 years on the job, Hatcher was the longest tenured hitting coach in the Major Leagues. Even with the limited offensive talent that he has had at times, his track record for coaxing the most out of the players in the lineup has been vexing. His methodology did not seem to mesh with the emerging new baseball philosophies.

Baseball is a performance based industry. Fans come out to pay for winners. With Mr. Moreno making a huge financial commitment to the team in the past two years, he needs to do everything he can in order to salvage the season and recoup his investment.

The Angels started the process of addressing their problems with the offense when they released Bobby Abreu on April 27th. Mickey Hatcher wasn’t responsible for signing Abreu to the third year on his deal—that was Tony Reagins. Nor was he responsible for putting Abreu into the lineup so many times so as to cause the third year on Abreu’s contract to vest—that was Mike Scioscia. So, he shouldn’t have been removed prior to the Angels releasing Bobby Abreu.

But, after ownership admitted its mistakes and swallowed a $9 million dollar loss on Abreu, the offense did not improve. On Monday, the Angels suffered their 8th shutout on the season in just 36 games. After two more weeks with nothing to show for their part on releasing Abreu, something more drastic had to be done. Fans were upset: they were “booing” Albert Pujols—the same man that over 4,000 of them came to cheer when he signed with the Angels just a few months ago.

Leadership means accountability. While Hatcher isn’t responsible for what the players do in the batters box, he is the leader of the offense. His track record in terms of generating offense has not been good over the years. Ownership needed to send a message to both the fans and the players: this losing record was unacceptable and ownership was willing to do whatever it would take to correct the mistake.

I have no doubts that Mickey Hatcher worked hard with the players. I have no doubt that he spent many hours trying to find an answer to all that ails the team. I do not subscribe to the theory that Mickey Hatcher was a poor coach because of his pedestrian numbers as a player. One does not have to be a good performer to be a good teacher. And, anyone with experience in a performance based industry knows that often good performers are poor teachers of their craft.

But, Mickey Hatcher had to go. With nearly $47 million committed to Albert Pujols and Vernon Wells, it is much easier for Mr. Moreno to find a coach who can work well with them rather than to find players who work well with Hatcher.

If ever there was any question as to who called the shots on the Angels, tonight has answered the question. Hatcher was Scioscia’s guy; relieving Hatcher had to come from Jerry Dipoto.

As Dipoto overhauls the organization and forges his stamp upon it, there will be casualties. But, in the process, a new orthodoxy will emerge. Most likely next year, during the offseason, a new coaching staff will be assembled to meld into the new baseball philosophies that Dipoto wants to develop as an organization. It will take some time, but, Dipoto will assemble a staff and a roster that will reflect his beliefs on how to produce a sustainable championship caliber team. Relieving Hatcher was one of many necessary steps in order to accomplish that goal.

As a fan, I wish Mickey Hatcher well. I will always remember him for his passion during the 2002 playoffs and World Series. As a father, I will thank him for giving my sons the Rally Monkey and for showing my sons how to wear a Rally Cap. As a member of the media, I will thank him for his professionalism. However, as an objective observer, I recognize he had to go. It’s time for some new blood to come into the organization and bring some new skills into the clubhouse.

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
And I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, No!
Love to hear what you think!

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