McGwire finds he loves coaching, wishes to remain in the job beyond this season
By Derrick Goold
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
HOUSTON - Mark McGwire's two youngest sons had their first day of school Wednesday, and for the first time their father wasn't present to see them toddle off.
It's something he may have to get used to.
Five regular-season months into his first coaching job at any level, McGwire described Wednesday how he's had a steep learning curve, how there have been plenty of frustrations, and how the coaching bug has bit him, bad.
"I know one thing after this, I would really love to be a hitting coach for many, many years," the former home run king said. "We'll talk about it when the season is over with and evaluate it then. But I have really enjoyed it. It's been a great learning experience for me. I've had a lot of sleepless nights. I've had a lot of great nights."
McGwire is on a one-year contract with the Cardinals, and any decisions about the club's coaches will come this offseason, probably after manager Tony La Russa has deliberated on his own return. At the time of his hiring, La Russa and the club acknowledged that it was a mutual experiment - that McGwire wanted to start a second baseball career as a coach and La Russa wanted to give him that opportunity.
The Cardinals have the second-best batting average in the NL (at .263), the seventh-most runs (595) and the sixth-highest on-base plus slugging percentage (.744). The overall totals are better than average, but the consistency has been lacking from the Cardinals' lineup. McGwire ties some of that to "all the young players we have who are still learning." He said surrounding veterans Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols are hitters still "getting a feel for the big leagues."
During his first season as hitting coach, McGwire became the father of triplets, and he now has five children school age or younger. The boys, who have "fallen in love with baseball" this summer, he said, went back to California for school this week. McGwire said that his family has embraced his return to baseball as much as he has, and that he would seek an opportunity to continue coaching.
"I've learned a great deal of stuff throughout this whole season, and I'd love to continue doing this for a long time," McGwire said. "But I've got to be offered the job first."
RIVALRY DIDN'T DERAIL DEAL
Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane said Wednesday that he would not have vetoed any deal that sent former ace Roy Oswalt to the Cardinals because of the teams sharing the same division. The talks just never got to that point, he said.
"That was not a roadblock," McLane said. "I think (trading within the division) used to be something you avoided. That's not how I viewed it this time. We had discussions with the Cardinals, and it just did not work - it did not work for either team. It just never really materialized. They talked two or three times, and it never got close to being a deal."
McLane acknowledged that Oswalt was "excited about the potential of being with the Cardinals" and that he expressed that wish to Houston ownership. McLane said the players offered by the Cardinals, who included at least one major-league player, did not cause negotiations to falter. The Astros eventually traded Oswalt to Philadelphia for a package that included lefty starter J.A. Happ. Houston sent $11 million to offset the salary owed Oswalt through 2011.
FADE TO A FINISH
The Cardinals' 11 wins in August were their fewest in any full month since April 2007 and the fewest of any August during a non-strike season in more than two decades. But it also continued a trend. In the previous four seasons, the Cardinals have struggled toward the end of the season, and they have not had a winning September since going 16-12 in 2004. Since 2006, the year they won the World Series, the Cardinals are 50-60 (.455) in September games. La Russa cited injuries as a factor and saw no trend linking the falls.
"There's no easy answer for that," La Russa said. "No simple answer. It really depends on the year. You have to pick each one apart for why."
PUJOLS gives special gift
Late Tuesday night, after the Cardinals' 3-0 loss, Albert Pujols gave away the bat he used to hit his 400th home run as a gift to a young fan at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. The Houston-area teen, who officials said had a brain tumor, had planned to attend Monday's game to see his favorite player, Pujols, but was hospitalized that day. Pujols said Wednesday he was told about the boy and invited to visit the fan in person by former Houston manager Phil Garner. Pujols had not used the bat since hitting No. 400 a week ago.
Before Wednesday's game, the Astros honored Hall of Fame radio man Milo Hamilton for his 65 years in broadcasting. Hamilton turns 83 on Thursday. . . . The Cardinals officially added backup catcher Brian Esposito and outfielder Nick Stavinoha to the roster. Dennys Reyes (elbow) was removed from the disabled list. With rosters expanded, the Cardinals have 29 players on the active roster.
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