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Angels hatch a plan: Fire hitting coach as ugly season turns uglier

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist
The Angels have been moving closer to firing hitting coach Mickey Hatcher for what seems like days now, and you didn't need to be Columbo to sniff that one out.

Their offense isn't just bad, it's subterranean bad.

A team, and an offense, underachieves this spectacularly, someone's got to go. That's just the nature of sports, and that's understandable, and on Tuesday it was Hatcher's turn.

But as the Halo Express continues to plumb the depths toward the earth's core, rightly or wrongly, the perception is going to be that this is the first major move of the Pujols Administration.

They can say what they want, but it's too late. The words and actions that were needed two weeks ago, after Albert Pujols called out Hatcher, never came.

Instead, the day after the slumping slugger expressed displeasure with Hatcher's relaying of some innocuous, positive comments from a hitter's meeting to the media, this is what manager Mike Scioscia said when asked if Pujols and Hatcher had met and talked:

"There's nothing to resolve. Albert is fine. Mickey is fine.

"There's nothing to resolve."

Two weeks later, turns out Hatcher is not fine. Unless he's fine in the way that someone who was pushed off of the Titanic and into the icy water is fine.

You know what they say. The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem.

Life never was going to be the same in Anaheim once the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a $240 million deal last winter. But they thought that meant in a good way. Never did they expect to produce one baseball's worst offenses.

The Angels were shut out eight times in their first 36 games, matching the highest total in the past 95 years of major-league hardball.

A culture change is underway in Anaheim, and the sacking of manager Mike Scioscia's close friend and confidante is a major milestone.

Hatcher is the only hitting coach Scioscia has worked with in 13 seasons in Anaheim. This is a clear signal that rookie general manager Jerry Dipoto has been given some serious juice by owner Arte Moreno. That, or that Pujols is running the show.

Either way, the walls have closed in on Scioscia, who is signed through 2018 and, until this year, pretty much had carte blanche under Moreno.

And while Hatcher becomes the fall guy, and at this point you really couldn't build a case to keep him, it also should be noted that he wasn't the one writing the lineups.

It is Scioscia who persists in playing Vernon Wells, the gift that keeps on giving from deposed executive secretary Tony Reagins (Wells is owed $21 million a year from 2012-2014), when it's become very evident that Wells is well past his expiration date.

It is Scioscia who, in a futile attempt to find offense, has used 33 different lineups in 37 games.

It is Scioscia who at times has silenced Mark Trumbo like few opposing pitchers have -- by keeping him out of 10 of the Angels' 37 games.

He's been one of the game's best managers for the past decade, but he's had a very poor 2012.

Part of it is the hand he was dealt. As much talent as there is on paper, it's become more and more evident that the Angels are a collection of parts that do not fit well together.

There is absolutely no continuity. They're not powerful enough. They're not swift enough. They're not young enough.

Truth be told, they needed bullpen help more than Pujols during free agency last winter. But Moreno needed a marquee player as the centerpiece for the club's lucrative new television contract. Programming 1, Angels 0. Another shutout.

When Pujols upbraided Hatcher two weeks ago, nobody spoke out in Hatcher's defense. And now he's gone.

And the quicksand doing its thing, you wonder who's going to be next.
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