The Los Angeles Dodgers took a chance and hired the infamous Mark McGwire as their hitting coach before the 2013 MLB season. Amidst a large amount of scrutiny, McGwire stepped into the role looking to heat up the Dodgers’ bats:
Dodgers hire Mark McGwire? In related news, Ben Johnson & Lance Armstrong are hired as speed & conditioning coaches. #DodgersJuiceJustAddHGH
— L. Jefe (@L_Jefe) November 7, 2012
Dodgers hire Mark McGwire as their hitting coach! I look forward to steroid night at dodger stadium this year! #juice4everybody
— John Kuperman (@JohnKuperman) November 7, 2012
What most haters seem to forget is how amazing a hitter McGwire was in his playing days, despite admitting to steroid use in 2010. According to ESPN’s report of McGwire’s admission statement, he first started using steroids “in the 1989/1990 offseason.” Before that, McGwire had hit 114 home runs in his first three full MLB seasons. Even before that, “Big Mac” hit 31 home runs in his senior season at USC.
What so many fail to realize about steroids and performance-enhancing drugs is that they do not make a ball player into a good hitter. The hand-eye coordination, technique and instinctual reaction that goes into swinging a baseball bat well play a much more important part in the role of a good hitter than sheer power and force. McGwire truly was a good hitter before he started taking performance-enhancing drugs and the Dodgers’ improved offense is just more evidence of that.
In 2012, the Dodgers’ overall offense combined for a team batting average of .252, an on-base percentage of .317, 116 home runs and 607 RBI. After McGwire stepped in as hitting coach, the Dodgers managed to hit .264 with a .326 on-base percentage while smashing 138 home runs and plating 618 runners in 2013. A clear offensive increase can be seen not in only the team as a whole, but also in some key individuals.
Despite struggling with injuries, shortstop Hanley Ramirez has put together his best season since his MVP-runner-up season in 2009. Similarly, second baseman Mark Ellis has had his best hitting performance since his 2010 season with the Oakland Athletics. Even Carl Crawford has had a resurgence after missing most of the 2012 season due to injury. McGwire’s coaching and advice has certainly aided the Dodgers’ batters at the plate. This could have only happened if “Big Mac” really knew what he was talking about and was truly a great hitter, without the steroids.