McGwire to coach Cardinal hitters

During the 11 a.m. press conference today, Tony La Russa, 65, told reporters several important pieces of information concerning the upcoming season of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mark McGwire (www.nydailynews.com)
Mark McGwire (www.nydailynews.com)

The conference was streamed line on the Internet via KTRS The Big 550: Talk Radio St. Louis.

First and foremost, La Russa signed a one-year contract. He’ll be the skipper again next season, which will be his 15th with the Redbirds.

Secondly, the entire coaching staff, including pitching coach Dave Duncan, is staying the same, except for one change, which is the biggest news of the day.

The 64-year-old hitting coach Hal McRae, who has been on La Russa‘s staff for the last five seasons, did not get his contract renewed.

Legendary Cardinal homerun slugger Mark McGwire will be taking his place.

ESPN first reported the possible coaching change Sunday, but it was made official today.

I think this is a great move.

McGwire has reportedly worked with players in the off-season, such as Matt Holliday.

Sure, since leaving the major leagues following the 2001 season, McGwire has stayed out of the spotlight.

The last time he made any notable, public appearance was when he attended Congressional hearings on steroid abuse. During those hearings, though, he didn’t say much except that he was “not here to talk about the past.”

Was that the best way to handle things? Maybe not. He should have at least said something to the effect of, “I did things I wish I hadn’t done in the past because it could have hurt my body,” or something of that nature in order to put out a positive message to the youth of America.

Even so, he was never convicted of juicing, so get off his back.

Besides, using any performance-enhancing substance doesn’t mean he wasn’t one dynamite batter.

Maybe you don’t remember, but he did knock 70 homers during the 1998 season to break Roger Maris’ 37-year-old record, which has since been beaten by Barry Bonds, who is probably the poster child for steroid use considering how much bigger his head got compared to when he wasn’t on performance enhancers.

And if hitting 70 home runs in one season isn’t enough to convince you, most likely because you want to argue the point of whether or not he used steroids, then try this little factoid on for size.

When McGwire was a rookie at the Oakland Athletics in 1987 he hit 49 long-balls. If you’re keeping score at home, that crushed the previous rookie record of 38, which was held by both Frank Robinson and Wally Berger.

Those 49 homeruns also earned him the honor of being named the American League Rookie of the Year in 1987.

The following three years he hit more than 30 homers each season, which made him the first Major Leaguer to hit 30-plus home runs in each of his first four full seasons.

So to me it is obvious for McGwire to become a batting coach. He clearly has the background to teach other players how to make solid contact with the ball during every at bat.

Most people probably don’t disagree with his merit to be a hitting coach. Instead, most probably have more of a problem with his murky past in regards to steroids use.

Like I said, though, he hasn’t been convicted. Granted, until he comes out and makes some sort of statement that helps lift the veil of suspicion, people are going to continue to dislike him for “lying,” even though he said nothing incriminating, just statements that were vague and worthy of causing doubt.

So if he hasn’t been proven guilty, shouldn’t he be treated as innocent?

I think so, at least when it comes to coaching.

What about being a National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee? Should he be allowed in despite the lingering questions of his alleged steroid us?

Sure.

Nothing has been proven, and even in his rookie year he proved his potential at hitting the long-ball.

He has earned it, especially since he hit 583 homeruns during his career.

Even so, he hasn’t come up short during the balloting process to get inducted.

Why?

Drunks, thieves and convicted sex offenders are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Granted some of their offenses weren’t while they were still playing the game, but the fact remains they did something less than positive that could give baseball a black eye, which is what McGwire is accused of doing.

For example, George Herman Ruth Jr., better known as “Babe Ruth” or “The Bambino,” was a raging alcoholic, and he is often referred to as the best player to ever touch a baseball field.

McGwire shouldn’t be treated differently for allegedly using steroids.

This is especially true since, according to a May 8, 2006 article on www.thenation.com:

“Ruth also was a habitual user of a banned substance that was deemed unambiguously illegal by the federal government–a drug Ruth believed enhanced his performance: alcohol. Ruth was a star during the roaring prohibition 1920s, and as teammate Joe Dugan said, ‘Babe would go day and night, broads and booze.’ But Ruth didn’t just stop at the watering hole to find an edge. According to The Baseball Hall of Shame’s Warped Record Book, by Bruce Nash, Allan Zullo and Bob Smith, the Bambino fell ill one year attempting to inject himself with extract from a sheep’s testes.”

Injecting extract from a sheep’s testes? Isn’t that worse than injecting steroids? I think so.

Of course, I find it particularly interesting that Ruth reportedly referred to alcohol as his performance enhancer.

Alcohol isn’t illegal anymore, but it was then.

Steroids other than those used for medical purposes are still illegal, but will they ever be legal?

I don’t know. Either way, though, Ruth wasn’t left out of the Hall of Fame because of his illegal substance use. Should McGwire?

No. He should be inducted into the Hall. That hasn’t changed since he played his last inning.

The only thing that has changed now is that maybe McGwire can possibly get inducted for coaching as well as playing.

McGwire is going to be a great fit in La Russa’s operation. He is going to bring a lot to the table and help the Cardinals get even better.

When the 2010 season starts, get ready to witness a hitting show from the Redbirds’ lineup.

And I think this will be the start of a long, successful career in coaching and management for McGwire.

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About toddvogts 674 Articles
My name is Todd Vogts. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm an author and journalist. Visit my website at www.toddvogts.com and follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/toddvogts.