I remember being 16. It was a time of enjoying my first summer with a car, going to the lake quite a bit, and watching the epic home run battle between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Many give credit to this battle for bringing fans back to the game of baseball. I was not one of those fans because I never left. But, I can see how that could happen.
McGwire was on top of the world. After refusing to answer any possible steroid questions in 2005, his reputation took hit so massive that McGwire, once considered a sure-fire Hall of Famer, cannot get anywhere near the support he needs to be enshrined in Cooperstown. After hiding for the past four years, he is back in the spotlight after being named the new St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach… and I think it is an excellent move by St. Louis.
Obviously, Big Mac will have some questions to answer from inquiring minds. That is a given. The Cardinals organization has publically said that McGwire is available soon to answer questions. This steroids issue will have to be addressed. Being a McGwire fan, I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say. But what he allegedly did or did not do has nothing to do with his credentials for this job.
What McGwire accomplished on the field speaks for itself. He is a twelve-time All-Star, a three-time winner of the Silver Slugger Award, and, among other accomplishments, a member of the Major League Baseball All-Century team for the 1900’s. He hit 583 home runs in his major league career. No matter how a person feels about McGwire’s refusal to answer steroids questions, there is no way to dismiss what McGwire accomplished. Did you know that he hit .312 in 1996? The man can hit.
If someone is a good coach, they are a good coach. What someone did in their past does not matter. If a coach is able to turn players into better hitters, then the mission is accomplished.
McGwire never hit for average consistently did manage to get on base with walks. Later in his career, pitchers often pitched around him in the lineup. He can relay his personal experiences in these situations to Albert Pujols, since Pujols is starting to experience the same circumstance. He is, after all, only eight years removed from the game. He has worked with some Cardinals’ players in the winter, recently, and received glowing endorsements. Cardinals’ player Skip Schumacher said his past never came up with his workouts, and that he did not care about it, as long as it did not affect his ability to coach. If a past linked to steroids does not bother the players, why should it bother the media and fans?
The bottom line is winning, right? Just win baby, as Al Davis would say (though he has not been practicing what he preaches). Once you get between those lines, the goal is to win the game. You play to win the game! You want to have one more run than the opposing team. All of the outside influences are just “window dressing.” In football, the Denver Broncos, during the championship years, used a zone blocking scheme that was often seen as controversial, yet it won Super Bowls. Coaches were called dirty because of it. The triple option, being taught by Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, often emphasizes chop blocking while coaches like Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer have taken offense (though he recently backed off his comments). Georgia Tech currently sits 8-1.
The bottom line is that if McGwire’s Cardinals show offensive improvement, no one will care about his past. Winning cures everything! If the Cardinals struggle, McGwire will feel heat. Whether or not the Cardinals improve in the batter’s box has absolutely nothing to do with his past. It will have everything to do with him teaching the science of hitting.