The Cardinals have announced that former outfielder Willie McGee has rejoined the team on a permanent basis as an assistant to General Manager John Mozeliak.
McGee, who in the past has declined invitations to work for the Cardinals because he wanted to focus his attention on his kids' activities back in his home near San Francisco, will instruct minor league players on the finer points of the game.
Details about base running, hitting and playing defense offer a tangible value to a major league team. But McGee also brings a less obvious element to the table which has been sorely missed. And that is adding some organizational continuity.
Too many Cardinals players including Ken Oberkfell, Tommy Herr, George Hendrick and countless others have joined other organizations as coaches, managers and instructors. The Cardinals, who in the 1960s heydays relied heavily on players from their heyday in the 1940s as coaches, had a huge organizational turnover in the 1990s and basically divorced themselves -- intentionally or not -- from the starts of three World Series the decade before.
Hall of Famers Lou Brock and Bob Gibson have instructed players during spring training in recent years. But those duties are largely ceremonial at this point. The Cardinals need to bring players who have more recently retired into the mix to relate to younger players and create an enthusiasm for what it means to play for St. Louis.
The Cardinals made a huge step in that direction with the hire of Mike Matheny to be field manager. But the field manager has a lot more on his mind on a day-to-day basis than teaching fundamentals to kids. He needs to be delivered a more finished product from the minor leagues. So in walks McGee to polish prospects.
Jim Edmonds, who has worked for the Redbirds the last two years in spring training as a special instructor, may also be interested in becoming a coach with the Cardinals system. And ailing starting pitcher Chris Carpenter is another guy who would seemingly have a lot to share with kids.
Hopefully the Cardinals will continue to draw former stars back to the team to help create future ones.