Tim Kurkjian Plays Soft Toss with McGwire and Pujols

Michael GrossContributor IFebruary 24, 2010

ST. LOUIS - JUNE 17:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by teammate Mark McGwire #25 during the game against the Chicago White Sox at Busch Stadium on June 17, 2001 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the White Sox 8-3. (Photo by: Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Who doesn’t like ESPN's Tim Kurkjian?  I mean, who is the only guy who covered Tony Gwynn’s 3,000th hit and played intramural dodge ball with Wade Boggs’ uncle?  That’s right, Tim Kurkjian.  But today at  ESPN he produced the following piece/video combo, that in all honesty I had trouble finishing.  

It might be the most uncontroversial, love-filled article and interview I’ve ever seen. McGwire and Pujols spend the entire time complimenting each other, and Kirkjian plays the happy mediator.  Kurkjian basically makes sure they stay on topic, which is, “why are you guys so big and awesome.”  The title alone, “Baseball’s Power Couple,” is enough to turn the stomach.  

I don’t expect hard-hitting pieces on McGwire.  He’s not going to say anything about his rampant cheating and law breaking, but I don’t understand why he deserves this treatment.  If McGwire was clean, this would be a great Spring story.  A little Olympic-style fluff, but no harm in celebrating the greatness of Pujols.  As is, I’m left with one reaction, we’re talking about Mark McGwire?

First, I don’t see any reason to believe McGwire will be a great hitting coach.  No, Tony LaRussa saying so doesn’t convince me.  And honestly I’m not aware of any correlation between great hitters and great hitting coaches.  This, of course, gives McGwire the benefit of being called a great hitter, which he really was not.  He was a great power hitter, and we now know that some of those power numbers were achieved dishonestly.  

I’m sure McGwire loves to talk hitting and misses the camaraderie of baseball.  But none of that means he’s going to be a good instructor.  LaRussa brought him back as a favor, as a way to help repair his image.  You can tell me otherwise, but I won’t believe you.

The notion that McGwire is going to improve Big Albert’s hitting is absurd.  Hitting coaches make their reputation off great hitters, but their real value is in helping the guys who don’t have so much natural talent.  You want to be the Cardinals' hitting coach this year?  I’m sure Pujols will do just fine with you at the helm.  

To McGwire’s credit, he acknowledges the fact that there isn’t much work to do with Albert.  No kidding.  He even mentions that Pujols is helping him learn, and then they go back and forth complimenting each other.  Pujols is perhaps the nicest guy in baseball, so obviously he’s going to sit there no matter what and say he’s excited and McGwire’s the perfect fit, and all this other nonsense.

We’ll see.  The hardcore hitting tips from Big Mac in the interview?  Something along the lines of, he believes in hitting down on the ball, but also through the ball.  Oh, wow.  Someone call the patent office.  Big Mac just reinvented the wheel.  Down and through.  There goes the “come up and out of it” school of hitting.

Probably the last straw for me was the tales of Big Mac getting back in the cage.  Not sure if they popped the “Glory Days” cassette into the boom box for this session, but apparently Big Mac can still hit plenty of batting practice homers.  That’s great, and Jack Nicklaus can still pipe a drive past 99.9 percent of the population and he’s seventy.  

Here’s a tip Big Mac: Save the BP swings for the guys that are on the team.  You had your day.  Remember the career you prolonged with years of PED use?  Just stand by the cage, flex your forearms, and keep spitting gems like, “hitting is 98 percent, mental.”  Great.

I don’t know if Big Mac is going to do a decent job or not.  The point is, he’s a fraud, and I don’t care if he succeeds.  He doesn’t deserve praise, especially from a real baseball guy like Timmy K.