By all accounts, Mark McGwire is leaving the St. Louis Cardinals for the Los Angeles Dodgers to become their hitting coach. Exact particulars of why exactly he’s leaving and how much he will be making have yet to be released, but it provides some news in an otherwise quiet offseason to date.
Already tabbed to replace Mark McGwire is former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, first baseman, and third baseman John Mabry. Mabry spent 8 of his 14 big league seasons with the Redbirds, and over his 748 games with the team, he had a .281 average. John Mabry certainly was not as popular or as productive as McGwire, but he was never under a cloud of suspicion for having possibly used steroids. There’s not much of a track record for either man to date, but seeing how the Redbirds hit in the NLCS, change could be a very good thing.
Mark McGwire is now tasked with the unenviable job of trying to enliven the Los Angeles Dodgers bats. Over the last 3 seasons, the Cardinals experienced an increase in walks and decline in strikeouts. They also scored more, and hit well across the board. The fact that 5 players this season had 20+ Home Runs is certainly an indication of what he’s capable of teaching.
Perhaps Mabry will mark a return to small ball for the St. Louis Cardinals, but I doubt if their philosophies will change much. They will still be a team that does the little things well, and hits for power when needed. They will still be backed by the best fans in baseball. They will still be able to call upon the 3 years that they did have with McGwire too.
I’m personally always a fan of a new perspective. Three years isn’t terribly long, but a new pair of eyes and a new outlook is always refreshing. In a year marked by the ‘little guys’ stepping up and having a profound impact, Mabry could continue that trend into next year and beyond. The once larger than life hero McGwire being replaced by the quiet and unassuming Mabry is just how the Redbirds seem to operate, and I love that. No one is bigger than the team, and cohesion and unity is much easier amongst people who don’t have the attitude of being better than anyone else around them.
Even the big men on campus, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, are very down to earth and let their play do the talking. Couple that with a manager who is quickly earning respect around town and around the locker room, and I think the recipe for success is there. The St. Louis Cardinals may not be under the radar anymore, but the quiet sleeping giant can be awakened at any moment. Just ask the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals.