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Return of the Big Mac

It's an off day in the World Series so what better time to go a bit off-topic?

If you're any kind of baseball fan you've probably heard that Tony La Russa is welcoming former single-season home run king Mark McGwire back to baseball by adding him to his St. Louis Cardinals staff as hitting coach.

While one might think that Major League Baseball would want to distance itself from a player that was prominent during the Steroid Era (though never proven guilty of taking steroids), Commissioner Bud Selig is welcoming McGwire back with open arms.

"Over the years I developed affection for players who I get to know and have been good," Selig said on Thursday in reference to McGwire.

The move marks the largest, if not first, step baseball has made toward accepting the Steroids Era where home run totals went through the roof to the delight of fans and the chagrin of baseball purists.

But by opening its arms to McGwire, has baseball opened the door for other players who have been disgraced by association to get back into the game? There have already been plenty of players who have returned to the field after having tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, including World Series participants Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte. What makes the McGwire hiring so interesting is that it's a player being brought back in to the league in a leadership role.

McGwire could wind up being a rare case, as he benefits from having a strong personal relationship with La Russa. But it's also possible that we will look back at this hiring the same way we view his summer of 70 home runs: where McGwire becomes the first to reach a new plateau but not the last.

Of course, I wonder if this greases the wheels for McGwire to some day be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame as he quietly goes about repairing his tarnished (rightfully or not) image.

Further, does McGwire's hiring mean we could some day see a team take a chance and hire Barry Bonds as a hitting instructor or special assistant? Hard to say, but let us know what you guys think in the comments.

By CJ Holley  |  October 30, 2009; 1:31 PM ET
Categories:  Cardinals  | Tags: mark mcgwire, st. louis cardinals, steroids  
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Next: Off-day notes [UPDATE: Blanton in Game 4]


Terrible; how come nobody discusses the fact that LaRussa's genius as a Manager was due to his players on steroids. As far as I am concerned, Pujols now has the stink of steroids on him. What else is McGwire going to do? He hit .263 for his career. I have always been opposed to Pete Rose being let back into baseball but at least he never cheated the game like McGwire. McGwire is such a good guy how is it he was embracing the Maris family in one arm and using the other to take supplements and steroids to cheat his way to the HR record. McGwire is the poster boy for steroids, he lied to Congress but since Selig likes him he is welcomed back with open arms. Selig is a terrible commissioner and contrast this to his decision to distance himself from a better replay policy just shows how backwards Selig is.

Posted by: mjwies11 | October 30, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Between the steroids and the serious (and deadly) alcohol and substance abuse issues that the Cards have had during LaRussa's tenure, it's amazing that Tony's not only still around, but he's able to bring in McGwire to be his hitting coach? The guy must be made out of teflon.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how a one-dimensional, dead-pull hitter fares as a hitting coach.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 30, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

i'm not sure that big mac will be a good batting instructor. many great, natural hitters, don't make good coaches because they never had to work on their swing. they just swung the bat and made contact.

mcgwire never seemed to be a big "work on your swing" guy to me. it was more of a see ball, hit ball far thing.

but maybe i'm wrong.

Posted by: adampschroeder | October 30, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

Boy, lots of blind hatred out there. Why take a swipe at Albert Pujols? Lots of ignorance about McGwire as a hitting instructor... If you want to attack Selig, attack him for his blind obstinance about using instant replay to bail out the umps.

Posted by: stuck_in_Lodi | October 31, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

About what I'd expect from Bud See-No-Evil.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 1, 2009 5:28 AM | Report abuse

Last time I checked, Mac was never found guilty of anything, nor was evidence ever found proving that he used steroids. He was taking, at the time, legal substances that everyone else was taking too. Give the guy a break.
If the Cards want to hire an unqualified career power hitter to be their hitting coach, that is their problem. I see nothing wrong with it. However I don't think it will work out too well.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | November 3, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

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