KMOV.com’s Brendan Marks is reporting live from Cardinals Spring Training in Jupiter. Check back with KMOV.com daily for breaking Cardinals news and multimedia coverage as the Redbirds look to defend their division title.
KMOV.com’s Michael Bittner and Dan Fredman will join Brendan a few times a week to talk about the team. And we want to hear from you, the fans, so please comment below.
Today’s question: How will Mark McGwire fare as hitting coach of the Cardinals?
Brendan Marks: Mark McGwire's hiring as hitting coach brings some speculation to the mix because of the former Cardinal's admission to using steroids. The one they call "Big Mac" was forced to admit his use if he wanted to return, so he did and now we can move on.
Now the questions are going to turn to whether he will be effective as a hitting coach. For a number of reasons, I believe McGwire is going to thrive in coaching the Cardinals hitters.
Every player who McGwire has worked with has nothing but good things to say about his teachings. Trust in a coach is huge. When players believe a coach can make them better at their craft, trust is established. Skip Schumaker, who has worked with McGwire in California in the past (and hit over .300 last year), has been noted as saying he's jealous he has to share McGwire with the rest of the team. Of course he was joking, but it says a lot about what Schumaker thinks of him.
Not only will McGwire be able to help with the technical aspect of hitting, but probably more important is McGwire’s ability to teach the mental aspect of the game. I can’t imagine what hitting was like during the pressure-packed homerun race of 1998 (even though we know McGwire had some help). To continue to hit homeruns when all the lights were on him speaks volumes of McGwire’s mental strength. The mental aspect of hitting is just as, if not more, important than the physical. If McGwire can share some of his knowledge to stay mentally strong, the Cardinals will be a better team for it.
Only time will tell whether or not Mark McGwire will succeed in his role as hitting coach of the Cardinals. One thing is certain though: If the players believe in him, so should you and I.
Michael Bittner: When I first heard the Cardinals hired former first baseman and once-future-hall-of-Famer-but-
Will Big Mac be a good hitting coach? At first glance, probably not. McGwire had only 1, 626 carrer hits – less than Ron Gant – and 583 of those were home runs. No one ever called McGwire, with a lifetime batting average of .263, a “pure hitter.”
However, McGwire has a number of things going for him as he begins his new career. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has an eye for coaches. Dave Duncan is considered the best pitching coach in baseball, and Jose Oquendo is considered one of the best fielding coaches in baseball and helped Skip Schumaker in his nearly unprecedented switch from the outfield to second base.
McGwire has also worked with Schumaker and shortstop Brendan Ryan. The pair hit .301 and .292 in 2009, respectively, after getting tutorials for Big Mac last offseason.
And just because McGwire wasn’t a pure hitter doesn’t mean he can’t coach hitters. New Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, widely considered the best batting coach in MLB, never even played in the big leagues.
Daniel Fredman: During the offseason, the Cardinals and Manager Tony LaRussa shocked baseball fans everywhere when they announced Mark McGwire would be joining the Cardinals coaching staff, replacing Hal McRae. This move is smart for both the Cardinals and McGwire.
McGwire has worked with infielders Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan the last few off-season’s and the results speak for themselves. Both flirted with a .300 batting average last season and the same is expected this year. Big Mac may not be the best hitter in the history of baseball, but that doesn’t mean he can’t teach it. Last year, under the watchful eye of Hal McRae, considered a good hitter, the Cardinals ranked 13th in all of baseball in hitting. Not bad, but not good when you had guys named Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa, Ryan Ludwick and Yadier Molina.
Tony LaRussa, probably the most loyal manager in the game, has put his former player in a position for him to address his past and move on. This is the time for McGwire to work hard and improve his image around the league. McGwire finds himself in an opportunity that many believe he may not succeed in, but I’m not sure it’s possible to fail when you’re the hitting coach for a team with a lineup the Cardinals will put out there every night.
Now that the truth has come out, it’s time for baseball fans to accept his apology, move on and watch a Cardinal lineup that is sure to produce a lot of runs in 2010.