Bold decision to hire Mark McGwire as hitting coach has paid off for Cardinals

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When the Cardinals hired Mark McGwire as their hitting coach prior to the 2010 season there was lots of talk about his lack of coaching experience and lots of speculation about how his steroids-related baggage would be a distraction.

Two years later all of that seems to have been forgotten, as McGwire has mostly flown under the radar in terms of national media attention and the Cardinals led the league in runs scored this season.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch described how even yesterday, with media members from across the country assembled at Busch Stadium and McGwire fielding all sorts of questions, his job performance and the lineup’s success were the focus.

Several hitters, including NLCS MVP David Freese, have singled out McGwire’s tutelage as a big reason for their success and during the regular season the Cardinals led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS in addition to runs. And as Goold notes they were also the only NL team to strike out fewer than 1,000 times despite McGwire ranking 34th all time in strikeouts himself.

It turns out McGwire is simply a really good hitting coach and Tony La Russa deserves credit for making what was at the time a headline-grabbing, oft-criticized decision to add him to the staff when the media attention on McGwire was almost exclusively negative.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.