First, the relatively expected news that Tony LaRussa will be back at the helm of the Cardinals for his 15th season with the Redbirds. One report indicated that it would be a multi-year deal, but as always TLR will take it year by year and decide whether he wants to return or not. A strong finish to 2010 might be the end of the road for him.
We've talked about this in the UCB roundtable, but I think that having TLR (and, by extension, Dave Duncan) back is probably a good thing for the club. LaRussa does a lot of good things for this team and tends to get the most out of the players. While some may criticize how he does it, he usually is able to have the team overachieve. October is another matter, but you never know what you are going to get there. It sure wasn't LaRussa's fault that Chris Carpenter had a terrible Game 1 in this year's NLDS.
The bigger news, of course, is that Hal McRae was fired as hitting coach. That was expected--I mentioned that a week or so ago. What wasn't expected by anyone in the baseball world was that his replacement would be none other than troubled slugger Mark McGwire.
A lot of people are really up in arms over this. Which strikes me as fairly ridiculous, really. Look, we know what the rumors are about McGwire, though there's been little hard evidence to connect him to it. Say it's true, though. How worked up can we be?
I will admit, I've been a McGwire fan since his rookie year, so I'm not completely unbiased in this regard. But, as Pip will likely point out, a team that had Troy Glaus, Ryan Franklin and Rick Ankiel, players either tied to or actually suspended for steroid use, has little room for a high road. If people aren't going to be worked up about those guys, can you really get steamed about McGwire?
Some would say the difference between those active players and McGwire is that they've admitted their guilt and served their time, as it were. There's some truth to that. My personal opinion, though, is that we are going to see something come out of this press conference tomorrow. I don't believe the Cardinals would have hired him naively thinking they could tell the press "don't ask about it" and that'd happen. I don't believe McGwire would bring himself out of retirement and subject himself to those kind of questions and harassments if there wasn't a plan in place.
I wouldn't be surprised at tomorrow's press conference that McGwire doesn't say, "OK, here you are. One time thing. I'm answering the questions and then I'm moving on. Yes, I did it. It was not something I'm proud of. It was a time where a lot of people were doing the same thing and I felt like I needed it to stay in the game. I don't think anyone should use them and I'm sorry for what I did. That said, I'm here to do a job, and that's what I plan to do."
There's going to have to be some addressing of the issue, otherwise this McGwire experiment will likely not last until spring training.
Looking at it from a strictly baseball point of view, though, the move makes some sense. We've seen what McGwire's tutelage has done for Skip Schumaker the last couple of years. Obviously, Mac's not all about power and "grip it and rip it." He seems to have some general fundamental knowledge of hitting and how to impart that to other players. While he and Matt Holliday didn't necessarily work out well, I don't think that's an indication that he's not going to be effective with the players.
It was obvious that there needed to be a change. The last couple of years the offense has struggled and sputtered, for the most part. Whether it was McRae's teachings getting old or just not being that effective, a change was definitely needed. There's no doubt that this counts as a change. We'll see if it was the right one.
Needless to say, this isn't quite to that level, but it's still pretty big news nonetheless. Cardinals team president Bill DeWitt III will be our guest on a special UCB Radio Hour tomorrow night at 5:30 pm Central. Here's some background on Mr. DeWitt and we are very excited to have him on tomorrow!