Mark McGwire had the privilege of being around the St.Louis Cardinals magic carpet ride that led to a World Series title last season. For a first year coach in the Majors, that’s a fairly impressive accomplishment for the former slugger turned hitting coach. Despite Tony LaRussa’s retirement, new manager Mike Matheny asked Big Mac to continue on as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.
McGwire will always have the steroids suspicion looming over his playing career after breaking the single season home run record in 1998 that Barry Bonds would break a few years later in 2001. The Hall of Fame looks like it will continue to treat the steroid era as a black cloud over the sport, as McGwire recently learned that he won’t be a part of the new 2012 HOF class to be enshrined in Cooperstown later this year. McGwire understands there is just nothing he can do about that and doesn’t sound too bitter about it.
Mark McGwire joined KFNS in St.Louis with The Morning After to discuss Mike Matheny being the St.Louis Cardinals new manager, being denied election into the Hall of Fame, how important it is or is not for him to one day earn induction into Cooperstown, dealing with the media attention in 1998 during his and Sammy Sosa’s home run chase, and the reason he got into coaching.
On his former teammate and now boss Mike Matheny:
“It’s going to be fun. A very, very smart baseball guy. Yeah we are going to deal with some bumps in the road, but that is just what’s going to happen. I mean I am excited he and Mo [John Mozeliak] asked me to come back. I am excited to come back and work with the hitters. Hitting is a process and it takes time. We did well as an offense last year. I know we lead the league in double plays, but the thing I am very proud of is our hitters, which I stress – people get tired of hearing me say it, but you gotta stay in your zone. Stay in your zone. Know what that pitcher is going to do until you work the count. You have to understand by working the count and getting that starting pitcher to throw a lot of pitches in the first 5 or 6 innings, it’s something we did really, really well and even better in the playoffs we wore down those pitchers Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels over there and you go to Milwaukee. We wore those guys down because the more pitches they throw the more chances guys are going to get more balls over the middle of the plate, which we did.”
When you see your numbers and the Hall of Fame voters not going in your favor what is your reaction?
“I don’t really have a reaction. It’s out of my control. I understand everything. I confronted what I had to confront three years ago. It’s out of my hands. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
You’re human though. Wouldn’t you like to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame?
“It’s funny I sit back and look at it and the media is so much greater today than when I broke in or especially when I was a kid, but I remember growing up and nobody talked about being a Hall of Famer. What you talked about was maybe I can be a big league ballplayer. I grew up in era where the Hall of Fame was so far fetched it was like why would you ever think you were a Hall of Fame player? Let alone a Major Leaguer? I mean I never thought I would get to that position and obviously I have the numbers that maybe dictate that, but obviously something happened where it’s not acceptable and I totally accept it.”
How did you think you dealt with all the media attention in 1998?
“I thought I dealt with it very well. It was very, very tough because I look at a lot of those interviews that Albert Pujols has done throughout his career where it was team, team, team. This is not about one player especially in this sport. That’s the way I was. It was tough. If there was any tough thing was trying to talk to the media on an everyday basis, when I really didn’t do anything where I didn’t feel – I felt I was taking away some of the attention to Ray Lankford or whoever it may be at a given time. At the time the media didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to hear why didn’t I hit a home run?”
Are you coaching now because you want your kids to have the thrill of being around a big league team?
“Well that is one of the things. The reason I got into coaching is you know what? The things that I did and what I mentally learned how to play this game. I changed my swing over my career. I just wanted to pass that on. I really don’t believe this stuff is passed on through the minor leagues and that’s why I got back in to give back for what I’ve learned as a hitter. That’s really about it. My kids are around it. They love it and they are around here for a couple of more days and then they gotta go home.”