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.

Yankees, Mariners expressing interest in J.A. Happ

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Yankees and Mariners are both expressing interest in Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ.

Happ is posting a 3.48 ERA and a 94/25 K/BB ratio in 82.2 innings across 14 starts and has been stingy with the hits as well. Between that, the Blue Jays’ lack of contention and the fact that Happ is in the walk year of his three-year, $36 million deal, all signs point to the Jays trading them.

In normal circumstances you might not expect the Jays to make a trade with the Yankees, but at this point it sort of doesn’t matter, does it? It’s not like Happ in New York on a couple month rental will impact the 2018 Jays too much. And, given his pending free agency, it’s not extraordinarily likely that he’d haunt the Jays from the Bronx long term either.

There’s not a ton of elite pitching currently available, but as the trade deadline approaches — a little over a month to go on that score — the talk about Happ, Cole Hamels, Francisco Liriano and others will heat up. Figure the Yankees will be linked with any and all available starters.