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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.