In an unbelievable turn of events, AOL Fanhouse is reporting that that Cardinals have fired Hal McRae as hitting coach and replaced him with former home run king Mark McGwire.
McGwire has turned down repeated offers even to serve as a spring training instructor in the past as he has avoided the spotlight like the swine flu following his unfortunate testimony in front of Congress on the issue of steroids. But he worked the last several off-seasons with individual players including Skip Schumaker and Matt Holliday.
If McGwire really plans to be hitting coach for the Cardinals, it would seem to guarantee that skipper Tony LaRussa -- McGwire's close friend and mentor -- will be back in the St. Louis dugout in 2010. But does it put another nail in the Matt Holliday coffin?
Holliday complained that McGwire's advice was to blame for him eliminating the leg kick that has been part of Holliday's swing since high school. And, without the kick, Holliday struggled terribly in the first half of 2009 before he went back to his old swing and came back to life.
Most players McGwire has worked with have had a great deal of success. He drastically improved the hitting of Skip Schumaker who had trouble making the team as a reserve outfielder before working with Big Mac. Since then three years ago, Schumaker has risen to be the team's lead-off man and even was encouraged to switch positions to keep his bat in the lineup.
Schumaker is a good example of what McGwire can do for guys who aren't power hitters. While McGwire had tremendous power, he was a line-drive type hitter. And that can work for hitters across the board, not just the big boys.
McGwire, while a big swinger, was a selective hitter who worked pitchers very well, and that is something the Cardinals could use. Talk was that McRae was not well respected by the Redbirds veterans and McGwire is a commanding presence who ought to grab their attention. He also has a relationship with St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols who was a rookie in Mac's last season with the Cardinals.
Click here to read the Fanhouse story.