|"I solemnly swear to turn the Dodgers into good hitters."|
Wednesday marked another big addition to the Dodger family, as they officially announced Mark McGwire as the team's new hitting coach. Reports came about a week ago, as McGwire informed the Cardinals that he was turning down an extension to head to LA.
It's a move that gets Big Mac closer to his family and home, as he lives all of 40 minutes away from Dodger Stadium in Orange County.
What McGwire has in front of him is a bunch of big names who failed to gel during the final month of the season, costing the Dodgers a playoff berth on the second to last day of the season. With Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier already in the fold, not even the additions of Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Adrian Gonzalez could get them over the hump. It was a slump that cost Dave Hansen his job as hitting coach.
Enter Big Mac, who now becomes the team's seventh hitting coach in the seven-year tenure of Ned Colletti. What is working in McGwire's favor are the great numbers the Cardinals put up in his three years at the helm. They finished first in the National League in batting average at .296, OBP at .337, second in runs at 2,263, and fourth in slugging % at .416.
Don't get me wrong, it certainly helped that a couple guys named Albert Pujols was there for the first two years, and Carlos Beltran last year. But, there's also youngsters like David Freese and Allen Craig who provided a big boost, so I'm sure McGwire played some sort of role in their development.
There will always be a debate as to exactly how much a hitting coach can actually do. I've stated in the past that I firmly believe pitching coaches have a much bigger impact on that game, as they can develop game plans, and tweak deliveries and different pitches. Hitting coaches can game plans as well, like which pitches to attack, and can tinker with stances, but I'm not sure what else they can really do.
Nonetheless, this was an easy call for Colletti to make. We all know about the checkered history of McGwire's, although years later we'd also find out he was just a member of a long line. But as far as a pure hitting coach, you can't argue with the results. Plus, there's the instant respect he earns from being a great player during his time, to being a great coach in St. Louis.
I'm excited to see him work with guys like Ethier and Ramirez, who are good hitters, but are capable of showing more consistency. Once Kemp gets healthy, I'm sure he'll be chomping at the bit to get back to work. Then there's Gonzalez, who went through a power outage in September and failed to be the big bopper in the middle the Dodgers wanted. I'd like to see how McGwire can help him regain that power stroke.
The Dodgers now have their coaching staff in place, and with free agency ready to soon heat up, we'll see what else is in store for the Hot Stove season.