When the Cubs got swept out of the playoffs by the Dodgers in 2008, GM Jim Hendry made a reactionary off-season move by signing malcontent Milton Bradley to a lucrative contract, and saw the decision blow up in his face. The Cardinals — who this year were swept in the first round by the Dodgers — made a similar reflex move Monday, hiring deposed former slugger Mark McGwire as their new hitting coach/resident steroid injector.

“Albert [Pujols] carried us through the regular season, but by the time the playoffs rolled around, he completely ran out of gas. It cost us big time,” said manager Tony La Russa. “Big Mac has had a lot of tutoring from Jose Canseco, and thankfully knows exactly how to hit the right spots with our players. He will help us immensely.”

Appearing at his press conference nearly 250 pounds smaller than his playing days, a shriveled McGwire had little to say about his new gig or the performance enhancing drug allegations still hanging over his head.

“I’m not going to talk about the past,” McGwire said. “Nor am I going to talk the present or future. No more questions.”

Facing uncertain economic times, the Cardinals hope bringing Big Mac back to St. Louis will infuse some additional excitement into the city and translate into increased ticket sales. To save costs, however, the organization has decided against giving McGwire his own office at Busch Stadium, instead assigning him to a bathroom stall in the home team’s clubhouse to set up shop.

By Jeremy Barewin