Angels Fire Mickey Hatcher: Just Poor Hitting or Did Albert Pujols Play a Role?

Brian Kinel@sprtsramblngmanCorrespondent IIIMay 17, 2012

Fired Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher greets Torii Hunter.
Fired Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher greets Torii Hunter.Harry How/Getty Images

The Angels aren’t hitting, so they fire the hitting coach. Seems logical, right? Yes, that was sarcasm.

Mickey Hatcher has been the Angels’ hitting coach since 2000, the only hitting coach that his former Dodger teammate Mike Scioscia has worked with as a major league manager.  

There’s no denying the offensive struggles of the Angels this year. They’ve been shut out a major league-high eight times. Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo (so glad I got you in fantasy), Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells are hitting between .244 and .267. Chris Iannetta, Peter Bourjos and Erick Aybar are under .197.

But the big problem has been $250 million man Albert Pujols, who came to Los Angeles with season averages of .328 with 40 home runs and 121 RBI. After 150 at-bats this season, Pujols is hitting .213 with two home runs and 17 RBI. That projects to eight home runs and 65 RBI for this season.

So the case for Hatcher’s dismissal seems pretty clear, right? Yes, that was a trick question.

There may very well be more to Hatcher’s firing than the stats I just shared with you.  Pujols was upset with Hatcher a few weeks ago for telling the media something that Pujols said in a meeting before the start of a series with the Twins on April 30. You know, what’s said in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse.

That sounds good in theory, but what Hatcher shared with the media was Albert telling his teammates that he wouldn’t continue hitting so poorly and that he had experience with teams overcoming offensive slumps like the one the Angels were going through.

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Hatcher needed to be sworn to secrecy for that?

The struggling Albert Pujols.
The struggling Albert Pujols.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Pujols has a reputation as a very good guy. And he is. But he has also demonstrated some ability to be a bit of a diva.

Let’s not forget the flap that Albert caused after Game 2 of last year’s World Series. That game turned on a critical ninth-inning error by Pujols. His comments after the game? He didn’t make any.

While the media waited in the locker room, Albert sat in the kitchen. The same kitchen that’s off limits to the media. The explanation from Pujols was that he didn’t duck anyone, they simply had to ask anyone to get him and he would have come out.

Sounds plausible? Perhaps, but reaction from the media indicates otherwise. Players make themselves available by waiting by their locker without anyone having to summon them.

Then Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa backed Pujols, as he always did. There’s no team in baseball treated better by their fans and local media than the Cardinals. St. Louis is a great baseball city and they worship their team no matter what.

They’re not New York, where I sat in the right-field stands and heard Mets fans go off on the right fielder all game long. Their own right fielder.

They’re not Boston, where the abuse of the visiting team is legendary.

They’re not Philadelphia, where they’ve been known to boo injured visiting players. And Santa Claus.

Albert spent 11 years being coddled by everyone in St. Louis. He was very comfortable. He then made no secret of the fact that he wanted to be the highest-paid player in the game and became that by signing with the Angels this past offseason.

So far that hasn’t worked out very well. Just ask Mickey Hatcher.

Follow me on Twitter @sprtsramblngman

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