Really, how is any player supposed to take a coach seriously when he won't wear his hat the right way?
Angel fans have been begging for it for years, but have inexplicably been denied. Could this be the year we get our wish? Will the Angels finally fire maligned hitting coach Mickey Hatcher?
Pretty please? With sugar on top?
Mickey has been the hitting coach for over a decade, which is truly an impressive feat. Making it all the more impressive is that Angel fans have been calling for his termination for a little less than a decade, yet Hatcher has survived... kind of like a cockroach after a nuclear holocaust. If there is a God, Hatcher's tenure will finally come to an end after this uber-disappointing Halo season.
A year after guiding (and by guiding, I mean letting Bobby Abreu take over as the unofficial hitting coach) the Angels to one of their best offensive seasons, including a short period of time where every Angel starter was hitting over .300 at the same time, the Halo hitters have completely fallen apart. Surely it isn't 100% Mickey's fault, but I feel confident in saying that at least 95% of it is.
There are many examples of Hatcher's failings as a batting instructor from the past, but ultimately, we only care about the present, so here is a list of some of Hatcher's most egregious sins with the current Angel roster:
- Making Erick Aybar schizophrenic. Aybar was a very nice offensive player in 2009, but in 2010, Mick started to tinker with his approach in order to turn him into a leadoff hitter. That caused Aybar to go from a high-contact hitter to a guy so intent on trying to draw walks that he continually watched juicy fastballs get thrown right down the middle of the plate. That strategy obviously failed and Erick has been trying to reprogram his brainwashed mind the whole second half of the year to try and get back to his old self. Thus far his efforts have only been mildly successful.
- I think we can all agree that Hatcher somehow ruined Howie Kendrick. Howie's average has declined every season since he became a full-time member of the Angels under the tutelage of Hatcher. He hit .322 in 2007 but is not hitting just .268. And let's not forget that Kendrick got so lost at the plate last year that he had to be demoted to the minors, where he was safe from Hatcher's teachings, to fix his mindset and become a productive player again. That proved to just be a short-term fix though as Howie is tanking again. Yes, because of Mickey, the supposed future batting champ is now nothing more than a mediocre hitting second baseman. Thanks, Mickey.
- Maybe it is just old age setting in, but Hideki Matsui has always been a reliable producer, when healthy, before he arrived in Anaheim. Now, he is a black hole in the middle of the order and reduced to being a platoon player. That's right, one year of Mickey's guidance and Godzilla's career might now be over. Great work, Hatcher. Now it isn't just Angel fans who are mad at you. The entire country of Japan probably wants you fired too.
- Probably the biggest foul up of 2010 for Hatcher, and arguably of his entire coaching career, has been the Brandon Wood fiasco. The once heralded prize jewel of the Angel farm system hasn't just struggled in the big leagues, he is literally the worst hitter in baseball and is on the verge of turning in one of the worst seasons ever in the history of baseball. EVER. Now, I'm not saying Wood should be an All-Star right now, but he should be useful. I have to believe a better hitting coach could have at least salvaged something from all the innate talent Wood has. Hatcher has failed totally in that regard. Wood is now completely and utterly useless to the Angels and likely destined for the trash heap sometime this off-season since it is pretty clear that Hatcher just can't do anything to fix him. How many more careers does Mickey have to ruin?
In a strange way, I have always understood why Hatcher has kept his job. Despite his failings, the Angels have continued to win, so why fix something that isn't really broken? Well, now it is broken.
Though the bullpen has had its issues this year, the reason the Angels are going to miss the playoffs is because of their flagging offense. One could even argue (and wouldn't have to argue very hard) that the Halos have never been able to return to the World Series because their hitters have constantly come up short in the post-season. At some point something has to change.
The Angels have tried altering their offensive philosophy, moving away from small ball towards a more power-centric approach with an emphasis on plate discipline. But now that approach isn't working and the Angels are slowly drifting back towards small ball. This is a team without an offensive identity and they badly need to find it. But why let the man that led them into this quagmire try and pull them out of it? Or, perhaps more importantly, why let a man who is so dumb that he nearly painted himself to death
act as their offensive savior even though his resume is more that of an Anti-Christ?
Look, I have nothing personal against Mickey. Obviously Scioscia loves him, and I can see why. Even since his playing days, Mickey has been a jovial prankster and that lively personality is instrumental in keeping the Angel locker room loose. In fact, I have long thought that his humor and fun-loving spirit is the real reason Scioscia has kept him around, him serving as a hitting coach is almost just a coincidence because Sosh had to give Mick some sort of title.
Alas, the time has come for a change. The Angels need to do something to shake things up and cutting Hatcher loose makes the most sense. Getting a fresh perspective in the locker room could do a world of good for the Halo hitters. Surely no new guy could do any worse than Hatcher has already done. But maybe there is a middle ground here. Scioscia is fiercely loyal, so he might not be able to stomach firing Hatcher. What he could do is hope that Ron Roenicke gets a managerial job this off-season (a strong likelihood, by the way) and move Hatcher into the bench coach role, allowing the Angels to hire a new hitting coach without having to fire Mickey. Either way, the Angels get a new mentor to their batters and that can only be a good thing.