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Report: Mark McGwire close to joining Los Angeles Dodgers as hitting coach

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(US Presswire)

According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mark McGwire's three-year run as St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach will end at his own accord as he nears an agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the same position.

On Friday, McGwire informed the Cardinals he would not be accepting their offer of a new contract after his original deal expired on Wednesday. He also revealed that he was leaning towards accepting the Dodgers offer for the same role, citing his desire to be closer to his wife and five children who live outside of Los Angeles.

One certainly can't blame him for that, and I'm sure his exit to Southern California will be met with just slightly less anger than that of another former Redbird first baseman, but it's possible, if not likely, the Cardinals will be impacted on some level by his departure.

Of course there's always debate about the true effect the instructor has on an offense as a whole, but there's absolutely no debate the Cardinals offense finished among the top six in runs scored in the National League each of McGwire's season, with top-five finishes in Major League Baseball over the past two seasons.

In other words, the Cardinals offensive machine didn't miss a beat with or without Albert Pujols in the lineup, and stayed right on track even with Lance Berkman making only cameo appearances in 2012. The shrewd acquisition of Carlos Beltran helped that process no doubt, but McGwire may be in line for credit in helping Yadier Molina evolve from a guy that hit six home runs on average over his first seven seasons to an MVP candidate that cracked 14 and 22 respectively the past two seasons.

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Strauss also cited and even credited McGwire's instruction and philosophies for the emergence of young hitters like Allen Craig, David Freese and Matt Carpenter. Again, it's difficult to really say how much of that is true and how much is simply talent shining through, but it's clear there was an established off-the-field relationship and comfort level with McGwire as a mentor that they will now have to establish with someone else. How big of a deal that is will be determined in a few months, but it's still something they'll have to deal with.

On the flip side, the Dodgers offense has produced bottom-10 numbers in Major League Baseball over the past three seasons, so there's no harm in them betting on McGwire to be a savior. Of course, it won't hurt that they added Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford to their mix late in the season, but it's pretty clear all three are in need of an offensive tune-up to get back to being themselves. If McGwire helps that process along, this could prove to be their most important acquisition in a string of high-profile maneuverings.

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