While it’s still taking some getting used to looking at Mark McGwire don Dodger Blue, it won’t take much to adjust to the offense’s winning ways throughout the 2013 season.
He coached three seasons for the Cardinals, the team which helped him to cement his legacy (or downfall if you want to look in that direction) as a player, and begin his ascent as one of baseball’s best young coaches.
McGwire, 49, had a roster of players containing Albert Pujols (for two seasons), Lance Berkman (also two) and Matt Holliday. But he also had Allen Craig, Jon Jay and David Freese, players that would never have any cling to glory if not for a 2011 World Series victory.
They would nearly get to the Fall Classic a second year in a row in 2012, but fell just short against the Giants, this after the departure of the face of the Cardinals himself, Pujols.
Was it Tony La Russa? Perhaps. How about rookie manager Mike Matheny? Not likely.
In 2009 the Cardinals ranked 12th in the Majors with a .263 batting average, and 18th in runs scored with 730.
Then came McGwire in 2010, and helped increase the numbers to:
- 2010: .263 (9th) and 736 R (14th)
- 2011: .273 (5th) and 762 R (5th)
- 2012: .271 (4th) and 765 R (5th)
Where Does This Leave the Dodgers and McGwire?
The Dodgers scored an unimpressive 637 runs (26th) with a .252 batting average (16th) last season, giving McGwire a little more of a challenge, in many ways.
Where I challenge McGwire is to see how he will handle the chemistry of a team loaded with star players.
He did fine with Pujols, Berkman and Holliday, but now has the talents of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez to work out.
Role players like Craig, Jay and Freese are additional superstars with the Dodgers, in the likes of Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford.
Then there’s Mark Ellis, Luis Cruz and A.J. Ellis, players that McGwire will be counted on to produce in an effort to cash in more runs.
The Cardinals scored 132 runs more than the Dodgers with a very similar team.
With the pitching the Dodgers present themselves with, a stout offense led by profound coach could leap the Dodgers in to much more than just October baseball.
What’s his secret?
His composure. Mark McGwire is such a reserved guy with a mental vision for pounding baseballs.
When he was smacking home runs at the old Busch Stadium, he also was said to have visualized it several times before making it reality.
It could mean that Kemp and Gonzalez are capable of much better.
If he teaches Gonzalez to be more patient at the plate and take swings at better pitches, expect him to be in the conversation with the RBI leaders of the league, and perhaps even the MVP talks.
Then there’s Kemp who can lay off the filthy stuff down low. With patience he can draw more walks and force pitchers to really give him something to hit.
Although in my eyes, the biggest project is Ethier, who with knowledge to hit lefties could become one of baseball’s most clutch hitters.
OK, OK, OK, So Are We Really Going to Be This Good?
It’s very possible given that the NL West is still a fairly weak division in the eyes of most.
The Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres are all teams looking to build on lackluster seasons, but actually seem to have decreased rather than increase their hopes of doing so.
While the Giants are still lurking around, the Dodgers boast a roster of players that on paper are miles better.
No team is going to go 162-0, and to win 100 games is pretty difficult (nobody did it in 2012), but at this point of the Spring, you’d have to think that if there is one team that can do it, it’s the Dodgers.
Game on, Mark McGwire. Let’s see what you’re made of in Los Angeles.