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.
The Yankees are facing a convoluted path to the postseason, and they didn’t do themselves any favors after Todd Frazier fell for Ryan Goins‘ hidden ball trick in the third inning of Friday’s series opener. With one out and Frazier on second base, Jacoby Ellsbury skied a deep fly ball to right field, where it was caught by Jose Bautista just shy of the warning track and tossed back to Goins at second. Goins faked the throw to Marco Estrada, then sneakily (or not so sneakily, depending on your vantage point) gloved the ball and caught Frazier off the bag for the third out.
Of course, it helped that Frazier’s back was turned during the throw, so Goins’ fake-out may not have been as obvious as it was when the Yankees reviewed the tape several minutes later.
Goins earned another spot on the highlight reel in the sixth inning, mashing his second grand slam of the season while Frazier — and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, sans one home-run-record-slaying Aaron Judge — scrambled to catch up. The Yankees currently trail the Blue Jays 8-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, and will need to pull off a comeback (and hope the Astros and Athletics clinch their respective games) before they can lay claim to a playoff spot.
The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.
Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.
With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.