Mark McGwire was an iconic slugger in the majors for nearly two decades, but he did his biggest damage to opposing pitchers and the record books as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The three game series starting tonight at Dodger Stadium marks the first time since he joined the Cardinals in 1997 that he will face his old franchise.
Amid rampant but not unfounded speculation over who was using performance enhancing substances in the Majors, Mark McGwire receded into the shadows of baseball after retirement in 2001. That changed when Tony LaRussa surprising and somewhat controversially hired McGwire as the Red Birds hitting coach in 2009.
It turned out to be a brilliant move since the Cardinals made the playoffs in 2011 and ’12, revived the careers of aging sluggers Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman as well as young hitters Allen Craig and David Freese, and winning the World Series in 2011. McGwire left his decade in the shadows in style, behind his Oakleys, at the bottom step of the Cardinals dugout.
The Cardinals will be in the visiting dugout through Sunday, but Big Mac will be wearing a still unfamiliar blue uniform at home now that the Dodgers hired him to be their hitting coach this season. McGwire should feel comfortable in LA since he was born in Pomona California before playing three years of college ball at USC. But facing the Cardinals must be strange.
McGwire looked to be an excellent hire for the Dodgers considering his success as a player and coach in the same position in St. Louis, and the Dodgers power hitting National League lineup. This doesn’t fall on the shoulders of Big Mac who just arrived to the underachieving party, but the Dodgers are disappointing. And even with injuries the area of the game they have been most disappointing is at the plate. Despite getting on base, the Dodgers can’t score any runs. What’s the problem Big Mac? Being the cool kid he is, he says relax. He says
I’m a big believer that you can’t chase the game of baseball. You’ve got to let the game come back to you. You let the game come back to you by you being patient and getting what you want to hit.
Time is not what the Dodgers have. Facing Big Mac’s old team and National League power the St. Louis Cardinals brings into focus this crucial area of Dodger’s struggles as they sit in last place in the NL West.