Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an in depth article on Mark McGwire today. And — surprise! — it’s about Mark McGwire the hitting coach, not Mark McGwire the sideshow freak:
“I used to have a different swing for every type of pitch, like it was
this advanced game of pepper up there,” [Brendan] Ryan said while taking batting
practice with McGwire at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. “It’s
like in the minors, when I’d do these different impersonations of
hitters. I’d do Babe Ruth. I’d do Albert Pujols. … I’d have good
swings, but I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how it happened. “It’s like Mac has this scientific formula for what goes into a good
swing,” Ryan said, “and that’s what we’ve been working on. Knowing what
swing works” . . .
. . . “This is not to take away from the other hitting coaches I’ve had, but
there is so much more instruction I’ve had from working with Mac,” said
[Skip] Schumaker. “I can’t imagine what it will be like to have him there,
right with us, all year. I feel kind of like an only child. I don’t
really want to share him.”
In some ways these types of things are the coaching equivalent of “best shape of his life” articles. Every year someone has been working with young players in the cage or the bullpen. Every new coach has articles written about his fresh approach or devotion to videotape or whatever. I’m always kind of dubious of these things, especially when it comes to hitting coaches, because my pet theory on hitting coaches is that while they can do a lot of harm — see every Braves hitting coach since, I dunno, Clarence Jones — they don’t really do a heck of a lot of good relative to the praise they receive.
But McGwire is obviously a special case. For the steroids media circus, sure, but also because so many people assume that a big power hitter who struck out a lot can truly be an effective hitting coach. Will he get the same hitting coach honeymoon others get if his guys start out raking? Will he get the same amount of blame others get when they slump? Will everything that happens with the Cardinals’ offense be seen through the McGwire-hyperbole-prism that was constructed a couple of months ago?
That may be the second most interesting question in Cardinal-land this season.