Something more than four weeks ago I mentioned here that signing Albert Pujols had brought the Angels to a new level, media wise. I know it was before the season started because I was optimistic. I was convinced that signing Pujols was not just baseball news but world news, that the resulting increased media coverage was a great thing and a sure sign 2012 was going to be a historic Angels’ season. Of course, it has started out historically bad and the media attention is a contributing factor.
I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of the poor start and national focus on his lack of production or if he had a petulant moment, but Pujols’ comment to the media that Mickey Hatcher shouldn’t mention what went on in a meeting concerns me more than the 10-15 record. And the record does concern me.
Although I’ve been known to be a Hatcher basher at times, to me a coach is a coach. I know that even with a ridiculously low $12 million salary this year Pujols probably makes 25 times what Hatcher does and undoubtedly knows more about hitting a baseball. But Pujols is still a player. Hatcher is still a coach. I realize that baseball and all professional sports have changed, and that the balance of power between players and field management is vastly different than in the past. Still, I prefer to think the management and coaches are there for a reason and should be in charge. It Hatcher wants to make a point to the media he shouldn’t have to get any player’s approval.
If what I’ve read in media accounts is correct, Mickey was trying to make a point that the clubhouse was coming together as opposed to disintegrating, and was actually reinforcing Pujol’s role as a leader on the team. Hatcher was being positive. But Pujols announced to the media that this communication should not occur. This on the heels of Tori Hunter calling out team management (as well as players) by saying everyone needed to be doing their best, and of course there were comments by Abreu during spring suggesting a lack of respect from management.
Scioscia has maintained an even, team-oriented media posture. He knows better than to get into a back and forth with players in the media but he must be shaking his head in private. He said nice things about Bobby Abreu, although he had to be relieved to see him go. Hunter may be too media friendly but through the years he has gotten along well with Scioscia, and Torii’s comments certainly were easier to tolerate given the way he’s been playing. As far as Scioscia’s comments on Pujols and Hatcher: no problem, no concern, turn the page. Now if the Angels manager was Ozzie Guillen things might have blown up already!
To me this use of media by the players spells trouble down the road. It seems like one complaint after the other, and disgruntled players speaking up are unusual for a Mike Scioscia team. I’m not panicking: Scioscia isn’t Terry Collins and this isn’t 1999, when Angels players staged a clubhouse revolt. Sometimes comments clear the air, but more often negativity breeds on itself and can linger. Of course the way out of it is clear: Pujols needs to hit and the team has to play better. A nice winning streak can fix almost anything.