ANAHEIM -- For the first time since he took over the Angels in 2000, manager Mike Scioscia has a new hitting coach, the byproduct of a decision that was announced by general manager Jerry Dipoto on Tuesday -- and one Scioscia apparently had little say in. Scioscia and Mickey Hatcher, who was replaced by Triple-A hitting coach Jim Eppard as a result of the club's head-scratching offensive struggles, go back a long time. They played together on the Dodgers from 1987-90, worked together when Scioscia managed the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in 1999 and traveled together to Anaheim the following season. Scioscia wouldn't go into details Wednesday about the decision to dismiss Hatcher, but it's clear the last thing he wanted to see was his good friend go.
"Great teacher, great hitting coach," Scioscia said. "We all respect what the general manager's office is about, and the moves Jerry's looking at to move us forward, and we'll move forward. "Obviously the GM's position is to try to make changes, whether it's personnel or staffing, that he believes are going to help us [get] better, and we have to respect that." Under Hatcher's direction, the 2009 group set franchise records in batting average, hits, runs and RBIs. But from 2010-11, the Angels ranked no better than ninth in the AL in runs. And this year, almost everything about the Angels' disappointing start -- 16-21 and seven games out of first place despite a $154 million payroll -- points to the offense, which was expected to improve with the signing of Albert Pujols and the return to health of Kendrys Morales. With Pujols, Erick Aybar and Vernon Wells especially struggling, the Angels have been shut out a Major League-high eight times, rank 27th in the Majors in runs per game and are 11th in the American League in OPS. And because of that, some in the Angels' fan base wanted to see Hatcher go. They got their wish. "It's really unfortunate, and downright unfair for the most part, that people from their couch are going to call for this guy's job for years and years," Angels slugger Mark Trumbo said. "It's not him that's in the batter's box. Mickey puts in the time. He provided everything I needed as a player, to go up there and have the best chance of success. If I was to fail, it wouldn't be on him. It's not his fault." "One thing I can say is I have a lot of respect for Mickey," Pujols said. "He never took his job for granted. He was a guy that was always positive, even though we were going through some struggles." A lot of Angels players felt that way on Wednesday. But, as Dipoto said in a phone interview Tuesday, "This is unfortunately a situation where a message needs to be sent, and a philosophy needs to be instilled." "They're not easy decisions to make," Dipoto said in a scrum with reporters Wednesday. "You think long and hard about them. There was a lot of discussion. This is a decision that was made for the organization."