A sign of Scioscia’s loosening grip?
May, 15, 2012
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
As each week and month passes, the Angels feel more like Jerry Dipoto's team and less like Mike Scioscia's team.
The strongest indication of that yet was Tuesday's move -- surprising mostly in its timing -- to fire hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, a longtime friend and longtime teammate of Scioscia's. Hatcher won a World Series with Scioscia as a player on the Dodgers in 1988 and 14 years later, and 30 miles south, as a member of his coaching staff in Anaheim.
We don't even know yet whether Dipoto was the engine for Tuesday's decision. Angels owner Arte Moreno isn't quoted in the news release, but it's quote possible -- maybe even probable -- he had tired of watching his well-paid team ground out, pop up, strike out and fail to get on base at an alarming rate, telling Dipoto to sacrifice Hatcher.
Was it Hatcher's fault the Angels swing so wildly, rarely get on base and seem to tighten up with runners in scoring position? Judging by the comments on this website and others, plenty of fans feel he bore more than a small slice of the blame.
In reality, Hatcher probably was only one small part of the problem, if any part of the problem. It's a classic case. The Angels are so frustrated with Albert Pujols, they fired Mickey Hatcher.
As Dipoto pointed out, though, these moves are largely about opening the clubhouse to some fresh breezes. Maybe a new voice can coax better results than Hatcher's has for the past few seasons.
You have to assume that Tuesday night was a bitter one for Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in baseball. Scioscia did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Dipoto declined to go into details of his discussion with Scioscia, saying only, "These are difficult conversations to have with Mickey, difficult conversations to have with Mike, difficult conversations to have with yourself."
Alfredo Griffin is the last remaining member of the staff he assembled in 2000, but Hatcher is the first one to leave in circumstances not of his choosing. Joe Maddon and Bud Black left to take promotions managing their own clubs.
Under former GMs Bill Stoneman or Tony Reagins, Tuesday's move seems unlikely, certainly in May. But Dipoto has brought in his own people and has his own vision for this team, one which doesn't always align with the way Scioscia and Hatcher viewed things. He vowed back in November to increase the Angels' emphasis on on-base percentage. Scioscia and Hatcher continued to preach patience only as a means to an end -- getting a good pitch to hit -- not as an end in itself -- a walk.
Dipoto admitted that disconnect was part of Tuesday's move, that the team needed to be better at scoring runs by means other than the "safely hit ball."
Of course, the man in the middle of all this is Pujols, who so far has a cost-to-home run ratio of 240 million-to-one. Mix in one struggling superstar, one new and powerful GM and you get a manager with less ability to stand up for his own guys.