Wednesday, May 16, 2012

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By Bruce Nye - AngelsWin.com Columnist 

The Angels relieved Mickey Hatcher of his duties as hitting coach yesterday surprising the sports world while at the same time, pleasing thousands of fans.  The Angels have been shut out 8 times this year more than any team at this date in MLB history since 1907.  Their hitting and scoring statistics are among the lowest in the American League.

Jerry Dipoto made the announcement last evening without Angels' manager, Mike Scioscia present.  He said it was a sad day.  Mickey Hatcher had been the Angels hitting coach for 13 years - the longest by any MLB team.  Prior to that, Hatcher was the hitting coach for Mike Scioscia, when he managed the Dodgers' AAA team in Albuquerque .  He also played with Scioscia as a member of the Dodgers.

Mickey was a lovable, fun loving guy whom, when with the Dodgers would dance and cheer while the Mickey Mouse song was played for him.  Hatcher carried around an over-sized glove with which he used to prank other players.


Once as a coach for the Angels, he found some green paint and  used it to paint himself from head to toe.  Mickey didn't realize the paint was enamel, which wouldn't allow his skin and pores to breathe.  After the players got their laughs at the Green Giant, he complained to Bert Blyleven that he couldn't breathe and thus Mickey had a terrible time removing the paint.

For trivia buffs, Mickey was the replacement for Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series.  In that World Series, Hatcher hit a home run and raced (not trotted) around the bases.  This prompted Joe Garigiola to say, "He's afraid they're going to take it off the board."   Hatcher was never known as a home run hitter, although he had decent hitting stats as a major league player.

Players and fans loved him until the Angels players offensive numbers began to slip downward.  Once in 2009 all nine players in the game had a .300 batting average or higher when the Angels had strong offensive numbers.  In 2010 and 2011, the offense  struggled much to the dismay of the Angels fans.  But in 2012, with expectations so high with the signing of Albert Pujols,  a return of a  healthy Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo, the Angels have stumbled out of the gate in April and mid-May.

Hatcher is an inspirational man with an upbeat personality.  He was a tireless worker with the players.  He preached his motivational message that the game is simple - relax and wait for your pitch.  Think positive.

Firing people is not new in the Angels organization.  They fired Eddie Bane after he selected Mike Trout in the draft and they fired Ned Bergert who was instrumental in 1992 in tending to several in the terrible bus accident.  He was later promoted to the head trainer.

So why was Hatcher fired?  He had a squabble with Albert Pujols in early May.  In a closed door meeting, Pujols told the players that an early season slump was not new for him and to keep the faith, because he will return to prior years' form.  When Hatcher mentioned this to the media, there was a mild disagreement.  Pujols did not want any closed door comments mentioned in the media.  So was that it?

The decision goes deeper than that.  This was Jerry Dipoto's decision and a message o Mike Scioscia.  In the past years, the Angels have not had a strong GM and it has been largely Scioscia's team.  This is a message to Scioscia that his friend, Mickey had to go.  The numbers said so, and he said so.  Time will tell if this decision was wise.

The new hitting instructor, Jim Eppard comes from the Angels Triple A team in Salt Lake City where he was Trumbo's and Mike Trout's hitting coach.  Also, Eppard was in the Rockies organization and Dipoto is a big fan of his work.
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