Everyone has heard of the eclectic game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” That’s the game where you can trace any actor back to Bacon within six steps.
Well, thanks to an offseason move by the Los Angeles Dodgers, they’re playing a similar game. It’s called “Six Degrees of Mark McGwire.”
When the Dodgers coaxed McGwire away from the St. Louis Cardinals to be their hitting coach on November 7, things began to change. How so? I’m glad you asked!
The Dodgers have always been known as a pitching-first organization. Chavez Ravine is a pitcher’s park. Winning games 1-0 and 2-1 is much more common for the Dodgers than the 10-8 slugfests other teams routinely encounter.
However, in recent years, when the Dodgers have had Clayton Kershaw at the top of the starting rotation and a train wreck as the caboose, it seems like more of those one-run games have gone against the boys in blue.
That will hopefully start to change with the influences of Kevin Bacon … I mean McGwire. McGwire is a Southern California boy. He was born in Pomona, Calif., and began his storied career in the Bay with the Oakland A’s, so this is a happy homecoming.
McGwire set the MLB rookie record for home runs with 49 dingers in 1987. He also holds the all-time MLB mark by averaging a homer every 10.61 times to the plate over his career. Bet you thought Babe Ruth had that record, right? The Bambino is second with a homer in every 11.76 plate appearances.
Although he may have been a cheater, now McGwire is poised to help breathe some life into the Dodgers’ bats. Here is how McGwire has already influenced the Dodgers and how he will hopefully continue to do so in 2013 and beyond:
- The signing of utility player Skip Schumaker – McGwire lobbied Dodgers management to sign Schumaker, a player he coached with the Cardinals. Schumaker isn’t a superstar, but he is a gamer. The 32-year-old Schumaker plays all three outfield positions, as well as second base. This is a guy who has been solid his entire career – .288 average and .345 on-base percentage. Schumaker will be great coming off the bench and as a pinch-hitter.
- McGwire should help the Dodgers score runs – Under McGwire’s tutelage, the Cardinals were second in the National League with 765 runs scored last season. Meanwhile, under … who was the Dodgers’ hitting coach last season? I forget! … the Dodgers were 13th in the NL in runs scored. McGwire also led the Cardinals to the No. 2 spot in RBIs in 2012, while the Dodgers were a familiar 13th. To score runs, you have to get on base. Guess what? Under McGwire, the Cardinals led the NL in on-base percentage last season (.338). How about the Dodgers? They were a dismal 10th at .317. In 2011 under McGwire, the Cardinals led the league in on-base percentage and had the fewest strikeouts.
- McGwire should bring stability to the Dodgers – McGwire spent three seasons as hitting coach for the Cardinals and had the team at the top of most offensive categories his entire tenure in St. Louis. Since 2008, the Dodgers have gone through four different hitting coaches. To save your brain some strain, that makes four hitting coaches in five seasons for the Dodgers.
McGwire grew up 40 miles from Dodger Stadium. He played high school baseball there and went on to star at the University of Southern California. McGwire is home, so if the Dodgers will have him, this could be a long-lasting relationship.
So, how does McGwire play in a six degrees of separation scenario with the Dodgers? How about this: McGwire was a rookie with the Oakland A’s in 1987. McGwire’s teammate on that ’87 squad? Veteran left-handed pitcher Rick Honeycutt.
During Don Mattingly’s final MLB season as a player with the New York Yankees in 1995, guess who was traded to that team? Honeycutt! Guess who is the Dodgers’ pitching coach under Mattingly? You guessed it – Honeycutt. So, now, after being reunited in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have their six degrees of separation with McGwire, Honeycutt and Mattingly.
The Dodgers and their fans can only hope that it’s a reunion made in heaven.