Everybody following the Angels sees the rot at the heart of the organization. The team has been bad for years but, worse than that, the team has been dumb. The Angels are a billion dollar enterprise run by idiots. Just about every economic school of thought suggests that this should never happen--it's a helluva lot of money to risk on incompetent management--but then you turn on the game and there it is. Some Angel is playing who should've been fired in 2009. Some Angel is making the first out at third base.
Last year the general manager took the blame and finally lost the job for which we all knew he was unqualified five years ago. Then the team committed itself to some of the largest contracts in sports history. Expectations rose. Fans purchased season tickets. Then the new season began and it was clear that management would persist in refusing to play the best ballplayers. The Angels fell further and further behind the Texas Rangers. Rangers management mostly played their best ballplayers and it happened that these were the best in baseball.
Look at all of this from a business perspective. It's bad business. While Arte Moreno isn't a baseball guy, he's a pretty effective business man. That's really the only difference between his Angels and, say, the 2008 New York Mets. The Mets were similarly expensive and they also sucked, but they were owned by men less savvy than Arte. Arte is not going to abide millions of dollars in net losses. This is why Mickey Hatcher will be the scapegoat. To put fans' butts back in the seats.
Orange County isn't exactly experiencing rapid economic growth. It's going to take nothing short of a winner to convince Angel fans to take their families to the ballpark for $250 in 2012. They are not going to battle snarling Anaheim traffic and pesky ushers for the pleasure of watching Dan Haren throw 8 innings and give up 2 runs just for the team to lose 2-1 and to fall 15 games back of the Rangers. Meanwhile the competition for fans' consumer dollars is enormous and growing. Legendary superstar Magic Johnson just bought the Dodgers; Big Blue isn't going to be dismal forever. Everybody has 10,000 channels viewable on 50-inch TVs. Those who don't give up on the Halos can watch them lose in perfect high def from the comfort of their living room. You can almost count exactly how many strands of chewing tobacco Eric Aybar has packed into his jaw. The telecast can be enjoyable as long as you mute the volume, and it costs almost nothing. So how is Arte going to give fans reason to put their butts back in the seats?
Well, it's getting harder to generate the requisite hype, and maybe, unfortunately for the manager's social circle, somebody is going to have to pay. As we've seen, it's no longer enough to acquire a very expensive player like Gary Matthews or Brian Fuentes or Vernon Wells. The L.A. Times is catching on. There are other recreational options available in southern California where hot dogs costs less than 8 bucks. So, what to do? How to shake things up and make the Angels profitable again? It's still too early to fire the most over-rated manager since his mentor Tommy Lasorda. The pitching coach is too well respected around the league. That leaves Mickey. He's the sap who has to take the fall.