Though Ben Johnson HAS NOT been hired as Canada’s sprint coach, the Cardinals have done the next best thing and hired Mark McGwire as their hitting coach. Though arguments could be made for the merits of this decision, I believe that in the long-run this will be a poor decision for both publicity and pure baseball reasons.
Given McGwire’s history of dealing with the media and the countless accusations around his drug use, this decision will reflect poorly on the Cardinals – and in fact it already has. McGwire has a knack for making the best decisions when confronted with controversy in the media. For example, during his in court testimony, regarding his alleged drug use, he refused to talk about the ‘past’; unfortunately Mark, it turns out that this is the primary tense used in court – so thanks for your contribution to the investigation. Perhaps revising his previous stance somewhat, McGwire was a no-show for the very press conference that appointed him to his new role; maybe he now also refuses to talk about the future.
McGwire being appointed as a hitting coach quite simply reflects poorly on the league and is another example of steroid issues being swept under the rug. However, I am not even convinced that he is hitting coach material. Lets just review the facts.
- While on steroids McGwire can hit home runs. Specifically, during his career he averaged one home run for every 10.61 at bats, which is the best ratio of all time. The second best ratio of all time is held by Ryan Howard at 11.32.
- McGwire is a career 0.263 hitter.
- McGwire averaged 138 Ks per year.
While Ryan Howard is no doubt a great player, I think that even given his post season success we can all agree that he is probably not hitting coach material, primarily because of his low batting average and high Ks. The very characteristics that prevent Howard from being hitting coach material are shared by McGwire, except that McGwire has the added downside of having a serious steroid stigma. To put some of these numbers into perspective, Steve Henderson (hitting coach for Tampa Bay) posted a career 0.280 average and batted as high as 0.306 while Kevin Seitzer (hitting coach for KC) posted a career 0.295 batting average.
Call me a cynic, but I just don’t see this being a strong decision either from a publicity standpoint or a pure baseball standpoint.