|Big Mac Provides Big Story|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on March 08, 2010
Albert Pujols may be the most discussed first baseman in Cardinals' camp this spring, but Mark McGwire will be a close second. The former first baseman admitted on January 11 to using steroids throughout his career.
The admission was a move to get ensuing backlash cleared before the Cardinals went to spring training, but it's going to be something written about every new series. McGwire, the golden boy of the Bash Brothers in Oakland and the big slugger of the '98 home run chase, will be a huge topic of discussion.
Remember: McGwire never coached a day in his life, and he has been out of baseball for nine seasons. The many minor league coaches who have been hoping for a Major League job will tell you it's difficult enough to get one. Plenty of knowledgeable coaches and managers never make it to the Major Leagues. And now McGwire has to prove himself with no background, no training on how to teach hitters.
One thing that should benefit McGwire is that he's hands-on with hitters. He's willing to get into the cages and show hitters what they need to do. But let's not forget Ted Williams couldn't manage the Washington Senators, and he was the second-best hitter of all-time. What makes McGwire's situation any different?
McGwire also worked with Matt Holliday during the 2008-09 offseason. Holliday started the year slowly with the Athletics before dumping what he had learned from McGwire, and he immediately began to hit. Sure, McGwire knows not to make those same changes with Holliday, but isn't Holliday going to have some doubts in his mind when it comes to McGwire?
What if McGwire suggests Holliday shift his weight a little bit more before a pitch and Holliday does that and continues to slump? Baseball is a tricky game, especially with a player's mind, even a superstar like Holliday's. I'm not saying sell on Holliday -- he's still an excellent hitter -- but there's a chance this marriage won't work again. And that's a pretty big deal considering Holliday is the only guy the Cardinals have that will keep opposing pitchers honest in pitching to Pujols.
How well is McGwire going to perform in his first season as a Major League hitting coach? It's difficult to tell. But this has the opportunity of going south for the Cardinals, even with McGwire's knowledge of hitting.
Who knows? He may not be the hitting coach come September if Tony LaRussa follows through with his plan to pinch-hit McGwire if the Cardinals are in a close race.