With Hatcher out, who's next for Angels?
With Hatcher out, who's next for Angels?
You might assume that Anaheim is operating in the same time zone as the rest of the Pacific region, but apparently not.
There is APT (Albert Pujols Time), in which 37 games of a baseball season mean hardly anything in comparison to the 125 that follow. It's early.
Then there is JPT (Jerry Dipoto Time), in which 22.8 percent of the season is enough to trigger the alarms, put the children in the closet and fire batting coach Mickey Hatcher. It's not so early at all.
APT is imposed when anyone questions why the Winter World Champions are so comatose.
JPT is imposed to assuage surly fans, lower the blood pressure of Arte Moreno and remind Mike Scioscia that his job has now been redefined, to filling the lineup card and saying, "Yes."
This does not concern Hatcher's ability to teach hitting. Coaches don't do that anyway. Hitting is personal, natural and, for most people, impossible.
Does anyone really believe Hatcher is responsible for Pujols' Poseidon Adventure? ESPN's Rick Stucliffe speculates that Pujols is hurt. There are no other explanations. There rarely are, for hitters. You can hit or you can't.
"The one area that people don't know a lot about is hitting," Jeff Pentland said, when the Dodgers fired him last July 20. "So we're the first to go."
Rudy Jaramillo was Texas' hitting guru. In his 10 years the Rangers led the American League in OPS (on base percentage, plus slugging) five times. The Cubs offered him a rich 3-year contract in 2011. The Cubs were eighth in OPS last year and are 13th this year.
Michael Young was a solid hitter when Jaramillo was at Texas and still is.
"The thing you look for in a batting coach is trust," he said. "My theory is that we're our own best hitting coaches, especially with an experienced player who's been through slumps before. At the end of the day it's always on the player."
Which might be Pujols' ultimate problem. This is the first strong undertow he's ever had to fight.
"I love Rudy. I'm his biggest supporter," Young said. "He taught fundamentals, worked hard and was loyal and the players respected that ... got to know him so well that I'd have a bad at-bat, just look at him and say, 'Yeah, I know.' That was ideal. He trusted me to make my own adjustments."
That was Hatcher's theme.
"You just try to motivate them every way you can," he said last Friday in Texas. "My job is to get 'em in there and keep their routines going good, give them as much information as they can. You gotta come with a positive attitude every day. They feed off you, too.
"They know they have somebody to talk to, and that I won't be negative. I'm there if they want to vent. You see little things, give them an idea and see if they'll try it. There isn't a magic wand."
Hatcher was the batting coach when Troy Glaus hit 46 homers, when Vladimir Guerrero was the MVP, when Darin Erstad had 240 hits and when the Angels' offense carried them to the '02 World Series championship.
Hatcher wanted hitters to attack. Today's trend, favored by general manager Dipoto and the Moneyballers, is to build up pitch counts and hunt for walks.
That's fine, when your hitters are feared. Oakland hasn't been in the top half of the American League in walks since 2008, when the A's were fourth. They were 13th in on-base percentage that year.
Major leaguers who hit fair balls on first pitches in 2011 hit 729 home runs, more than on any other count, and their on-base percentage was .336, just .001 lower than those who hit a 1-0 pitch.
Jose Bautista slugged .608 last year, in Toronto. He is slugging .398 now. Toronto's batting coach is still Dwayne Murphy. At least today.
Hatcher is not the reason the Angels are not scoring. They are not scoring because the No. 3 hitter has a .536 OPS, and the average No. 3 hitter in the A.L. has an .800 OPS.
And they are not as fast as in 2009, when pitchers had to keep one eye open for their mischief, and when every Angel in the lineup was hitting .300 on one memorable August day. Hatcher was there then, too.
But it probably isn't even about Hatcher. He was just a brick on the path to the manager's office.
Scioscia came here in 2000. He never has fired a coach. He also has gotten his back up very quickly whenever such a suggestion was made.
A manager's first inalienable right is to pick his own coaches.
So, tor the first time, one must begin wondering when Mike Scioscia's Time (MST) expires.
Contact the writer: mwhicker@OCRegister.com. Follow on Twitter: MWhickerOCR