Who is the most accomplished hitter on the St. Louis Cardinals roster? If you said Albert Pujols, you are wrong. Recently manager Tony La Russa named former Cardinal and home run king Mark McGwire the teams hitting coach for the 2010 season.
It has been quite a while since we have either seen or heard from McGwire since his final game in 2001. His disappearance from the media can be explained by the ongoing speculation of his steroid use. After 1,874 games played with the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, McGwire will be entering his first season as a coach. I believe that this will be a great addition to a team that ranked 12th in batting average this season. The Cardinals are a great situation for McGwire to start his coaching career with, as he will be under the supervision of Tony La Russa who is one of the greatest minds in the game today. He will also be surrounded by fans who cheered for him throughout his five years with the team.
The lineup that the Card’s have is also going to make it an easy transition to the bench for “Big Mac.” In the heart of the order you find Albert Pujols who was this year’s home run leader with 47. Ryan Ludwick chipped in 22, and rookie Colby Rasmus hit 16. If the power numbers increase throughout the lineup, it will provide some much needed protection for Pujols in the middle of the order. This season when Matt Holliday was acquired from Oakland, it provided power behind Pujols. However, the bottom of the order featuring: Ankiel, DeRosa, and Molina could not mirror the success of those in front of them, which contributed to their first round exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Dodgers. With the addition of better hitting, the Cardinals will see an increase in: stolen bases, on base percentage, and obviously runs which will result in more wins for a team with a great pitching staff that should be able to maintain the majority of the leads they are given.
With the potential to be a great coach, Mark McGwire also has a lot of baggage that will most likely cloud his efforts of making this team better offensively. I am anticipating his press conferences to include questions of whether he did, or did not use steroids during his playing years. What’s done is done, and we need to understand that whether or not he used steroids during his playing time has no effect on how good of a coach he will be. The only judgment placed on Mark McGwire should be after next season when we see if he “juiced” the St. Louis lineup into one playing for a World Series title.