Baseball’s steroid controversy will follow Mark McGwire for the rest of his life, but the slugger has moved on, first taking a job as hitting coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and now, three years later, with the Los Angeles Dodgers. McGwire, who broke baseball’s single-season home run record with the Cardinals in 1998, will now work for the team he grew up rooting for.
McGwire, 49, has admitted using performance-enhancing drugs during his record-setting period, permanently sullying his reputation.
“Being away from my family a lot this year was really, really rough,” McGwire told ESPN. “I was very surprised when I found out the Dodgers called last week.”
The Cardinals boasted one of the top offenses during McGwire’s stint. Despite being a 12-time All-Star, McGwire has avoided the limelight since the revelation of his steroid use. He’ll come into Los Angeles hoping to bring some stability to the coach position, which has been a revolving door in recent seasons.
“As we played St. Louis the last few years and I talked to our staff, the conversation was always about how well they adjusted inside the game and adjusted inside at-bats, how they prepared,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “We saw how our pitchers struggled at times against St. Louis because their preparation was so strong.”
The Sporting News noted that the Cardinals’ hitters flourished under McGwire. The team tied for first in the NL in runs scored, was first in batting average and was third in OPS in his time there. Last season the Dodgers finished 13th in runs and OPS scored among NL teams.
Columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times reminded baseball fans that McGwire got only 19.5 percent of the 75 percent vote required to enter the Hall of Fame but faced the questions about his past with his head held high in L.A.
“That McGwire has been willing to resurrect all the questions and relive all the embarrassment for a chance to spend five hours a day standing behind a batting cage shows his crazy love for his craft,” Plaschke wrote.
“At the depth of McGwire's steroid humiliation, St. Louis politicians even removed his name from a local highway. Having climbing out of that ditch, he deserves every chance to carve a new path here.”
McGwire will certainly have the chance. He’ll be working with, among others, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, two sluggers newly acquired from Boston who struggled badly at the plate during their time with the Red Sox.
“I was born to be a baseball player, that's it,” McGwire said on his introductory conference call Wednesday. “Now, in the twilight in my life, I was born to be a coach, so here I am.”