Give credit where it’s due, the folks like to say.
But there was one topic that the Cardinals’ manager had to discuss for longer than he probably cared to during Tuesday’s session in the media room. Needless to say, LaRussa likely knew it was going to be a hot topic when he decided to give the hitting coach gig to Mark McGwire.
And clearly LaRussa knows there is many more coming.
For those who merely halfway followed baseball during the past few years, ex-slugger Mark McGwire went from national hero during the Summer of ’98 to pariah following his embarrassing testimony in front of the congressional House Government Reform Committee. Since then when McGwire repeatedly stated that he was not there “to talk about the past,” he has not given a single interview and has largely stayed out of the public eye.
There’s good reason, too. Though he has admitted to using androstenedione during his playing career, a steroid that was once sold over the counter in the U.S., McGwire has also been tied to more explicit steroid use during his playing days. Not only has Jose Canseco chronicled his steroid use with McGwire, but also the ex-Cardinals’ star was named in the infamous Mitchell Report.
However, hitting coaches in the Major Leagues talk to the press. In fact, it’s nearly unavoidable for them not to have many interactions with the media during a typical day at the ballpark. In a story that came out yesterday, newly-elected Hall-of-Fame manager, Whitey Herzog stated that he believes McGwire may quit his job because dealing with the press and the questions might not be worth it.
“He's going to be asked questions about steroids, he's going to be asked so many things, and he's got to be open and he's got to answer,” Herzog said. “And Tony can't get mad about it. He's got to put up with it.”
Yes, Tony knows this. Moreover, he says he would not have put McGwire in the position of being a distraction if the old slugger wasn’t up for the job.
“I know how seriously I've personally considered it before I presented it to our owner and general manager and our coaching staff, and I know the seriousness of my conversation with Mark, and I know how seriously he thought about it before he accepted,” La Russa said. “I think it's going to work, and I think he has demonstrated to some of us that he has a lot to offer as a hitting coach.”
McGwire worked privately with several Major League hitters privately from his home base in Southern California, but has no other coaching experience. Meanwhile, LaRussa said that McGwire will address the media regarding his new job and whatever other questions the press may have for him sometime in the near future.
So far that hasn’t happened because LaRussa says no one wanted to steal the spotlight from the World Series, awards season or winter meetings.
“I talk to him a lot,” La Russa said. “I talk to him about hitting. He's already had conversations with some of our guys. He's worked with guys over the winter in the past. He's studying tape. I mean, I'm the beneficiary of those conversations. I know what he has to offer and how excited he is about it.”
He might not be as excited to talk about the past, though.