Rick Hummel in the St. Louis Dispatch makes the obligatory mention of McGwire's link to the steroid era, but doesn't seem very concerned about it. He instead focuses on how McGwire once told LaRussa to keep Pujols on the major league roster during training camp of Albert's rookie season. I guess, that is pretty prescient, but Albert came to camp and started smacking the ball around almost instantly and hasn't ever really stopped. It's pretty easy to get behind a kid that is batting .400 with power. I'd have been more impressed if Pujols had been struggling a bit, but fine, McGwire recognized Pujols as a superstar about two weeks before I did (I drafted him to my fantasy team that year). To quote Milton Bradley, what else you got?
Hummel then points out that McGwire has been working with Skip Schumaker who was the Cardinals' Mark DeRosa before they acquired Mark DeRosa. Then in fairness, he also mentioned that another pupil of McGwire's was Chris Duncan, so that one is not so impressive.
The most interesting portion of the piece, by far, was this little nugget:
"Matt Holliday, who was with Colorado and then Oakland, has spent considerable time trying to learn how to be a better hitter with McGwire's help and, as a pending free agent, perhaps might be more influenced to stay with the club, knowing that McGwire would be his hitting instructor all year long.
Holliday had approached McGwire through the auspices of Mike Gallego, then a Rockies coach and former Cardinals and Oakland player before that. Gallego had been a teammate of McGwire's in Oakland and the Rockies ultimately made McGwire an offer to join them as their hitting coach, but McGwire declined, as he also chose, belatedly, not to come to spring training in 2008 as a hitting instructor for the Cardinals."
Now the reason behind the move starts coming into clearer focus. They are hoping that Holliday will take a hometown discount to work with the instructor he has chosen to seek out independently in the past. Oh the shrewdness. That should really knock Scott Boras off his game.
Meanwhile in another piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Strauss includes this snippet:
"McGwire has operated a de facto off-season hitting camp in Orange County for a number of major-league hitters in recent years. Current Cardinal outfielders Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday along with recently-traded outfielder Chris Duncan are among the campers. Daric Barton, Bobby Crosby and Garrett Atkins also have attended."So what I am seeing is a list of names that have worked with McGwire, with really only Schumaker showing any dramatic improvement. Holliday has always been good, but has declined away from Coors Field, except for his first month or so in a Cardinal uniform. Garrett Atkins' OPS has declined by at least 70 points every season since 2006 and has been seeing a lot more of the bench lately with the emergence of Ian Stewart in Colorado.
Bobby Crosby has never emerged as the kind of hitter that Oakland wanted him to be, relegated him to a utility role, and have been shopping him around with little interest other than Jim Hendry sniffing around a bit. Daric Barton is a young corner infielder in Oakland who appears to have a good eye (OBP is usually about 100 points higher than his batting average), but not much power.
This is not exactly an impressive resume. I'd be fairly dubious if I were a Cardinals fan. As a Cubs fan, it will make for an easy joke whenever a Cardinal hitter exceeds expectations this year.