Why Mark McGwire's Return Will Benefit the Cardinals

Joel KochSenior Analyst IOctober 27, 2009

12 Mar 2000: Mark McGwire #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals smiles as he stands in the field during a Spring Training Game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Holman Stadium in Vero Beach, Florida. The Cardinals defeated the Dodgers 7-5. Mandatory Credit: Harry How  /Allsport

Yes, his name is Mark McGwire. It isn't Mark McGuire, nor is it Mark Maguire, because he is not related to the main character of the movie Jerry Maguire. Spelling is a virtue.

He is also the new hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Do I care about this?

You better freaking believe it.

McGwire is my all-time favorite player. There was Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Jose Canseco (yes, even him), Tom Henke, Nolan Ryan, and now Albert Pujols. As you can tell, I was a fan of the early 1990 Athletics, the first team I rooted for before I saw the light and rooted for the Cardinals...at age five.

There were all of those players, but McGwire stands alone at the top of my list. He stands there with an adolescent's bedroom filled with McGwire posters, pictures, jerseys, shirts, and a card collection.

McGwire will make an excellent hitting coach.

McGwire has already worked wonders with Skip Schumaker.

Sure, point out his misses with Chris Duncan and Matt Holliday.

Holliday wasn't ready to dump the leg kick. It became a part of him, and he didn't know how to handle the bat without his leg kick.

Duncan's issues did not stem from his stance, trigger, or anything else. His problems came from injuries and a wish to waste away his sorrows (Josh Hancock), injuries, fan backlash, and bad numbers in a place I can't mention for fear of libel/slander.

Is a blog libel or slander? There's something to think about if you're upset I haven't mentioned steroids yet.

McGwire knows how to hit, as evidenced by his 583 home runs. Yes, his career batting average is .263, and he would strike out, hit a home run, or walk 47 percent of the time in his career.

Who cares? The Cardinals had a problem with on-base percentage and hitting the ball with authority.

A .391 career on-base percentage and 583 home runs enter the equation here.

McGwire had one of the best eyes in baseball. He could see exactly where a ball was going. You can't teach an eye to players, but you can teach how to improve theirs.

Video and the fact that McGwire knows how to hit will help these players. How much is dependent on if they listen.

That was the problem with McGwire's predecessor, Hal McRae. McRae came in and got everyone to listen, and therefore was successful.

In 2008, the players still listened but tuned him out some.

In 2009, they tuned him out completely and didn't care what he said. Why? He didn't really know what he was talking about. He preached the same thing over and over, never backing off.

If a player was having a problem with what he was saying, he'd tell them they were doing it wrong, and he wouldn't help them until they started to get it.

Great strategy, no?

He waited until either they understood what he was saying and had adapted it before he'd help them go the distance. The problem was that his strategy didn't work, and the team knew that.

He wanted singles. Singles would conquer everything, even the common cold.

The players knew that singles were great, but extra base hits would score. Singles got there, but it would take two or three more singles to drive in the first guy.

Enter McGwire, or Mr. Extra Base Hit.

This team will listen. Count on that.


What they will also listen to is what McGwire says about steroid use. Happy now? I mentioned it.

I for one firmly believe that McGwire did nothing wrong. Steroids were not illegal in Major League Baseball in the 1990s.

My main reason he didn't do anything wrong: I firmly believe he took steroids in the very early 1990s and was off steroids well before 1997. That pins the use to 1991-1996, and that is at the latest.

Know what happened in that time frame? A lot of injuries.

McGwire was injured constantly during that time, and he wanted to stay in the lineup to help the team win. Did he do the right thing? Nope, but he did do what he thought was best.

The question remains, though, is whether or not he will admit to it.

As his number one fan, I hope he does.

I am hoping for an Alex Rodriguez-like press conference. One day, a few hours long, and McGwire answering questions.

He comes out and says he did steroids, when he did steroids, when he stopped, and why. Did he get caught? Was he afraid of what would happen to him if he did finally get caught?

Open up about it and then have a question and answer period for the media present. Finish it off and then leave it there. Any more questions asked about it will get the answer, "I'm not here to talk about the past anymore. I'm here to help these guys hit better with that tree limb in their hands."

And yes, he should most definitely say that. It is funny, to lighten the mood, and true. He answered the past, so leave him alone about it. You missed the press conference; therefore you gave up your right to ask him about his steroid use.

Why would I like to see him do this?

First, it will relieve some of the circus that will inevitably surround him. That allows for him to get to work and stay at work without constantly answering questions.

Second, if a player starts playing well, it would allow for a rational answer (started seeing the ball well, or McGwire does have some magic and helped him) instead of the irrational answer that McGwire is juicing the player.

Thirdly, it might actually allow him to finally get into the Hall of Fame—every player's dream.

Even for the player who says it doesn't matter to him.


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