The Big Five with … Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens

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SAN FRANCISCO — Hensley ‘Bam Bam’ Meulens was supposed to be the first big thing from Curacao — Andruw Jones before Andruw Jones, if you will. He had power and the nickname of a ‘Flintstones’ character, but the best part of Meulens’ playing career turned out to be three years as a gaijin slugger in Japan in the mid-1990s.

And now in his first year as hitting coach of the San Francisco Giants, Meulens’ hitters have picked the perfect time to explode: 20 runs scored in the first two games of the World Series — after scoring only 19 in winning the NLCS in six games. Meulens takes a swing at The Big Five here:

So 20 runs in the first two game of a World Series doesn’t really surprise you?

“That’s what I said. We have hitters who have been great hitters in their career — .280-.290 career hitters. At some point, I thought they would all get together and put up some runs. We’ve been scoring just enough runs all year. It’s nice to see them breaking loose like this on this stage. I took this job last Nov. 2, and haven’t taken a day off since. It’s definitely gratifying that the hard work is paying off.”

So there was a specific plan of attack against Cliff Lee in Game 1?

“Definitely. The plan was to attack, and attack him early (in the count). Don’t let him get strike one, strike two, because he’s really tough when he gets ahead. We attacked him early and often, and he made just enough mistakes for us to capitalize. We wanted to get some runs on the board against him, make him work and get him out early. We had him over 100 pitches in the fifth inning. He missed with some pitches, and he threw more breaking balls than we thought he would throw.” 

Be aggressive and attack Lee, but also be patient enough to key a six-run eighth inning in Game 2 by drawing back-to-back-to-back walks?

“This is a veteran-filled lineup, smart enough in its approach to capitalize on mistakes. The bullpen for them came in and threw some balls. They couldn’t find the strike zone, we took advantage, and then we got a couple of big hits.”

Edgar Renteria has had a tough season injury-wise, but comes through with the big hits again — a fifth-inning homer and two-run double in the big eighth inning in Game 2. 

“He’s all about business. He’s all about playing in big games. He’s done it before. With Florida, he got the game winning hit (to win 1997 World Series Game 7). He was on a World Series winner in St. Louis, and he did it again with that home run to get us on the board. There was a long time when he was unable to play (due to injury), and then he basically lost his job to Juan (Uribe). But he persevered, and got his chance to play again when (Pedro  Pablo) Sandoval struggled.”

At this point, does anything Juan Uribe accomplishes surprise you?

“Not at all. He’s a guy who wants to be in this situation. That’s when he is at his best. At times, he’ll swing at balls over his head, or in the dirt. But he has the discipline to take pitches sometimes, too.”

Editor’s note: Tony DeMarco is a contributor to NBCSports.com who has been covering the big leagues since 1987. He’ll interview a guest during each day of the World Series for HardballTalk.com.

Joe Morgan is asking Hall of Fame voters to keep PED users out

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Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has never equivocated on his belief that users of performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Whenever he has been interviewed on the subject he has been steadfast in his stance that PED users are not worthy of induction.

This week he has taken a further step: he has sent a letter to all of the Hall of Fame voters, asking them to keep PED users out.

In his letter — the entirety of which you can read over at Joe Posnanski’s blog — Morgan says “if steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.” By “we,” he’s clearly referring to Hall of Fame members. While he does not name any player he would like to see voters keep out, he spends a lot of time talking about how PEDs are bad for baseball, PED users cheated the game and how he and many other Hall of Famers do not want to see them elected. He invokes “youngsters” and refers to the Hall of Fame as “special” and speaks to the “sanctity” of election. It’s the moral argument against PED use we’ve been hearing for a good 15 years or so.

It’s also hopelessly naive and comes far too late in the game to be a useful plea.

As we’ve noted many, many times, there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamine users to be sure, but even if you want to give them a pass, there are steroid and/or HGH users too. In case you forgot about that, allow me to remind you about the time Hall of Fame voter Thomas Boswell appeared in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning” and explicitly said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer drink a PED-laden shake:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December, but he has never backed off the claim either.

Less reliable, but still never refuted, were the stories of Patty Blyleven, former wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who said that she knows of a Hall of Famer who took PEDs as well, and who continues to nonetheless publicly rail against PED use. There are likewise other Hall of Famers of whom baseball writers are strongly convinced — or know for a fact — took PEDs but about whom they’ve never reported because no one would go on the record about it or corroborate it in a way that satisfies prevailing journalistic standards. Go ask a BBWAA member about why it took Jeff Bagwell so long to get into the Hall of Fame. Or simply go back and read what they said about him a few years ago.

Going beyond those cases are the cases of a host of players — players who have been on the ballot for years —  about which we’ll never, ever know. Do we know for sure that any of the guys currently on the ballot who played before drug testing never took PEDs? Of course not. In light of that all Morgan can ask is for voters to keep players of an entire era out. Which is a completely unreasonable and unfair request.

In the absence of guidance from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, BBWAA voters were somewhat inconsistent with alleged PED users for a time, but they’re beginning to coalesce around a set of rough standards:

  • If you tested positive for PEDs or were disciplined for PEDs after the testing program was fully online like Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro did, you’re not getting in. Figure Alex Rodriguez will fall in this group one day too;
  • If you were strongly and convincingly associated with PEDs in the pre-testing era like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the road you have to go down is going to be pretty bumpy, but you may, possibly, get in one day if you were an overwhelmingly great player;
  • If you were seen as one-dimensional like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa and either admitted to PED use or were suspected of it, welp, sorry. We’ll leave why Sosa is suspected of it to another post.

All of this is will likely change slightly over time. Bonds and Clemens have recently gotten over the 50% voting threshold and could gain some steam with the voters. Alex Rodriguez was good enough and his post-career image rehabilitation has been such that he may get more support than most post-testing PED guys one day. Maybe McGwire and Sosa will get new looks down the road by some iteration of the Veteran’s Committee. After that, there aren’t a lot of guys who are seriously in the Hall of Fame discussion with credible PED claims against them.

Which is to say that history is sorting itself out, for better or for worse. Sorting itself out in a way that renders Morgan’s views on the matter — whether you consider them well-founded or otherwise — too little, too late and, given what we know and do not know about PED users, rather useless.