All this St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series nonsense brought to mind the year 1987 — when the Cardinals ripped my young heart out. The Cards came back from a 3-2 NLCS deficit to the San Francisco Giants with two straight shutout wins at the old Busch Stadium, back when artificial turf meant a thin layer of abrasive carpeting on top of cement. And it was awful.
If you’ve read me wax emo about this before, please forgive me — I’m still not over it. I got to see Game 3 (loss) and Game 5 (win) of the ’87 NLCS at Candlestick, and my family had two tickets ready to go for Games 3-5 of the World Series. I bragged to anyone in my elementary school who’d listen, and then had to eat my words after Jose Oquendo, Danny Cox and the rest of those cartwheel-doing, base-stealing bastards ruined everything.
One of my favorite players on that 1987 Giants squad was Mike Aldrete. If Aldrete played today, the stat kids would be going crazy wondering why he wasn’t starting every day (although truth be told, Aldrete was actually kind of fragile). In three years with the Giants (1986-88), Aldrete put up a .282/.368/.389 line in 349 games, accumulating 6.7 fWAR over that time. 1987 was Aldrete’s best year, with a .325/.396/.462 line over 406 PA.
Aldrete was a walking machine who played all three outfield positions and first base, and in his three years in San Francisco he made $295,000 before the Giants traded him to the Montreal Expos for Tracy Jones, who played only 40 games with the Giants before they traded him to the Detroit Tigers for Pat Sheridan.
(In other news, killing an hour or so playing around on Baseball Reference is almost as underrated as Aldrete was as a Giant.)
Aldrete bounced around as utility players without a lot of power often do, moving on from the Expos to the Padres, Indians, A’s, Angels and Yankees in a career that spanned 10 seasons. Since retiring Aldrete’s been in the coaching game for a while, including a stint as hitting coach for the Arizona D-Backs in 2005-06.
Here’s where things come full circle: Aldrete’s been the assistant hitting coach for the Cardinals since ’08. (Yes, there’s such a thing as assistant hitting coaches — before a hitting coach puts the ball on a tee he could always use someone to fish that ball out of the bucket for him first.)
Now the Athletics and their manager Bob Melvin — who also played for the Giants from 1986-88 — want Aldrete to come serve as Oakland’s hitting coach:
Holliday wants Aldrete to stay: It’s an open secret around the A’s and the Cardinals that Oakland hopes to snag St. Louis assistant hitting coach Mike Aldrete to be the A’s hitting coach upon the conclusion of the World Series.
It hasn’t escaped the attention of one of Aldrete’s biggest fans, Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday, himself a onetime Oakland player.
Holliday said during Friday’s workout at Rangers Ballpark, “It’ll kill me. I love Aldo. He’s great. Honestly, I hope we find a way to keep him. If he does end up in Oakland, he’ll do a great job there, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.”
Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens has a World Series ring, and he undoubtedly put in more hours than he ever imagined he would as a hitting coach trying to get the Giants’ bats going in 2011. But the ’87 kid in me has to ask … why aren’t the Giants as interested in Aldrete as Melvin is?
Not only would hiring Aldrete bring the Giants one guy closer to wiping the D-Backs stench off their late-80s players (too bad Matt Williams seems to be a lost cause), it might also be nice to bring in someone with some knowledge of the strike zone. Not that Meulens is unqualified — even though he walked fewer times in his career (42 in 549 PA) than Aldrete did in ’87 or ’88 — but perhaps the Giants could bring Aldrete in as an “assistant” hitting coach.
It couldn’t be that hard to outbid the A’s. And with Tony LaRussa leaving the Cardinals on Monday, Aldrete’s position might be up in the air. Sure, it might also mean that Mark McGwire will be asked to move his ass from that prime spot in the dugout its always parked in, with Aldrete getting offered the full-time hitting coach role. But the Giants shouldn’t give up that easily.
A “Thrilling” recruiter
The Giants brought Will Clark back, and while I’m sure he’s busy telling hunting stories to the luxury suite employees during the season, maybe Clark could focus his offseason energies on bringing his old teammate back home. Send Clark to St. Louis, and if Oquendo gets all huffy, saying he’s going to take over for LaRussa and hire Aldrete, Nuschler can tell him, “Back off Joseph, unless you want to throw blows with a certain individual named Candy Maldonado who’s waiting in the car.”
Then Thrill and Aldrete will walk back to Clark’s T-Top IROC, planning a road trip to Seattle to spring Robby Thompson from Mariner prison.