Mark McGwire has been a big hit as a coach
It became an iconic moment in the Steroid Era, the slugger in a suit, squirming before Congress. For years, it was the last that baseball had heard of Mark McGwire.
"I'm not here to talk about the past," he said on that infamous day in 2005.
Eventually, he spoke about the past. He admitted to using steroids while setting home run records, clearing his conscience before embarking on his second chance as the hitting coach of the Cardinals.
McGwire, now the Dodgers' hitting coach, has made the most of his opportunity.
"It's how this game goes," McGwire said this past week upon his return to St. Louis for the National League Championship Series. "It's pretty funny. But it was a tough decision to switch, to make a change. I did it for my family. It's worked out really, really well."
After three successful seasons as the Cardinals' hitting coach, McGwire joined the Dodgers this year, lured by the chance to spend more time with his family in his native Southern California.
McGwire, 50, supervised a Dodgers offense that grew stronger as the season went along. Aided by the arrival of Yasiel Puig and the return of Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers rallied to score 4.01 runs per game and ranked third in the NL with a team average of .264.
By some measures, the Dodgers might have been even better.
For instance, adjusted OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) accounts for ballparks and run-scoring environments. When pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium is factored in, the Dodgers' offensive production tied for first in the National League with the Cardinals.
"He works hard," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He doesn't look for any attention. I think our guys, as they got to know him and got to continue to work with him, that those relationships just got better and better. He's been great for us."
The Dodgers rolled into St. Louis fresh off dispatching the Braves from the National League Division Series in four games. In that series, the Dodgers recorded 18 extra-base hits, the third-highest total in NLDS history, behind only the 2004 Astros (23), and last season's Cardinals (19), who also were coached by McGwire. Both of those teams played five-game series.
"I was blown away at how a superstar player can also be a superstar coach," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He has a great sense of how to teach the art of hitting and how to individualize it as good as anybody I've seen."
Even now, McGwire's work can be seen in the Cardinals' younger hitters.
Said Matheny: "You can go through that clubhouse and realize that he's got his fingerprint on quite a few of them, and their approach and their professionalism.''
Perhaps nobody better typifies McGwire's impact than Matt Carpenter, who in his first chance to play full-time turned himself into a contender for the National League MVP award.
At the Cardinals' season-ending meetings, McGwire said he was "pretty vocal" about getting Carpenter's bat into the lineup every day. Because Carpenter was blocked in the outfield, first base and third base, McGwire proposed a permanent move to second base.
"Sure enough, they did it, and look what he's done," McGwire said.
Carpenter made the All-Star team, hitting .318 in a career-high 157 games, and led the league in hits (199), doubles (55) and runs (126). By wins above replacement -- a catch-all statistic that measures offense and defense -- Carpenter ranked as the most valuable second baseman in all of baseball.
"It's a tribute to him. He's just such a hard worker, great hitter, he's just a baseball rat. It's really neat to see," McGwire said. "It wasn't hard to see the talent he has. It was just a matter of him getting an opportunity."
McGwire's touch hasn't worked in the NLCS thus far, as the Dodgers have totaled two runs in 22 innings in the first two games.
Of course, in this NLCS, McGwire must endure the wrath of the hitters he once mentored.
"He's a great coach," Carpenter said. "He's got a lot of knowledge and we definitely enjoyed our time with him here and learned a lot from him. I'm sure those guys over there enjoy it as well.''