Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Mark McGwire has told the Cardinals that he intends to accept an offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers to become their hitting coach. Strauss says the deal is not final, but that it appears to be close to it.
McGwire has been the Cardinals’ hitting coach for three years, and they offered him a contract extension to return, but apparently Los Angeles is where he wants to be. As Strauss notes, McGwire is from southern California and his offseason home is in Orange County with his wife and children.
It’s hard to say the specific impact a hitting coach has on a team, and I suspect that there is a much stronger correlation between latent talent and offense than there is between a hitting coach’s instruction and offense. But it is worth noting that the Cardinals have hit the daylights out of the ball while McGwire has been in the fold, so one can presume that he has at least done no harm.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉