Monday, October 26, 2009

McGwire to Not Talk About the Past On Cards' Bench

I'm a little late to the party in posting about Mark McGwire joining Tony LaRussa's coaching staff in St. Louis as the hitting instructor, so most of the jokes about juicing the offense and injecting life into the lineup have already been used.  So, I thought I would take a look around the interwebs and see what the coverage looks like from the other side.

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.


Brady said...

So when a Cardinals hitter asks McGwire about yesterday's game and what went wrong with his at-bats, McGwire will say "I'm not here to talk about the past."?

Aisle 424 said...

That line can work in so many situations. He should trademark it.

mb21 said...

424, I wouldn't look too much into the Cards hiring McGwire. It's not going to affect Holliday's decision unless we're talking about a difference of a million dollars or less. There is a player's union that these guys are members of and there's no chance that they'd stand by and let Holliday take significantly less to return to St. Louis because he has a crush on McGwire.

I expect the Cardinals to offer a 5-year deal worth $100 million with an option for a 6th or even 7th year. If the Yankees, Red Sox or Mets offer significantly more then he'll sign with them. Rumor is he wants to play in New York.

Aisle 424 said...

Actually, MB, since writing this I've heard that Holliday's slump was busted by him disgarding the advice of McGwire. Don't know if that is true though, but if it is the whole discussion is moot.

But let's say that Holliday loves McGwire and your estimate of 5 years and $100 million is what the Cards can afford to offer. Maybe he would be willing to take $95 million over the 5 to stay in the comforts of St. Louis (if he does feel comfortable) with his favorite hitting guru on the bench.

That wouldn't make the union go crazy, the Cardinals would save about $5 million (because I doubt they are paying Jaramillo or Duncan money to McGwire) and they can go get a utility player for an Aaron Miles-like salary to increase their depth.

If they are smart with their money (as we know the Cardinals are), pinching a few pennies here and there eventually adds up to some significant money, even by baseball standards.

But yeah, if the Mets come in and blow the Cardinals away like the Dodgers did to the Cubs for Furcal, then Holliday will be trying to catch fly balls with his junk in NY next year, irregardfree of McGwire's presence.

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