Meulens challenges hitters to work smarter, not harder


Meulens challenges hitters to work smarter, not harder

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. In his first year as theGiants hitting coach Hensley Meulens ended up in the World Series winnerscircle. In his second year, his horse finished dead last. In runs scored, the Giants ranked 16th out of 16 National League clubs. Their .173 average with two outs and runners in scoringposition (in more than 600 at-bats) was the worst by any major league club infour decades for which data is kept. It was agony and ecstasy,inverted. Its awake up call to myself, said Meulens, the former Yankee fromCuracao.
Itold (GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy), Hey, I know I work hard. Butthe hard work has to show up in the field, and a lot of times it didnt. So Idont take anything for granted. Im glad theyre giving me the chance torectify a lot of the things that went wrong last year. That process began with a 9:30 a.m. meeting inthe batting cages Saturday that was attended by all the position players inmajor league camp. Bochy introduced Meulens, who delivered the main thrust ofthe message: Be focused and committed, recognize your role in situations andpractice smart in addition to hard. Hitting coordinator Joe Lefebvre spoke, as didspecial instructors J.T. Snow and Jeff Kent. Of all the other speeches, Kent,the 2000 NL MVP, went on the longest as he talked about preparation andfocus. We didnt wantto do this the first day, Meulens said. We wanted them to them get in and getsettled. We thought today was a good day to meet, just to make sure everybodygets on the same page. This will be a smooth running engine by the time weleave here in terms of focus and concentration. And be ready to hit the fastball. Thats a bigone, too especially with young players like Brandon Belt and BrandonCrawford, who struggled when they were rushed to the bigleagues. We had Beltmaking the team before his time, Meulens said. We had Crawford coming up fromA-ball. We had (Hector) Sanchez who began the year in A-ball. And also, (AubreyHuff) didnt have the year we thought he would have. (Andres) Torres didnt andCody Ross didnt, and yes, they were late on the fastball a lot because theirfoot wasnt getting down. Its hard to hit a quality major league fastball whenyour foots still in the air. Thats why we talked about having a linedrive and down mentality. When youre late on the fastball, thats when you hita lot of fly balls. If you neglect certain areas of your offense, itll show upat the end of the year. The Giants didnt struggle to put runs on theboard because they werent trying. In fact, all those extra swings in the cagefed into the problem, Meulens said. What I asked them to do is do less swingingand more quality swinging, he said. Just take a few swings, lock yourself inand preserve your energy for the game. Snow and Kent talked aboutthat. Theres a fewguys who do it well, but there are way too many guys who spend too much time inthe cage, way too much time watching video. You need those things, but at thesame time you have to know when enough is enough. So were going to minimize our time withvideo and the cage and concentrate on having a better plan at the plate.Because not only were we late on the fastballs, but we were fooled a lot whenwe were ahead in the count. They threw Huffy a lot of 1-0 changeups and hechased. You have to have a plan, knowing they will try to do that again untilyou make an adjustment. Part of that is trusting the hitter behindyou, Meulens said. Its a lesson that the 2010 team bought into as belief beganto surge. Its something that last years club never was able toestablish. Thatswhen youve got to be smarter and learn to pass the baton, Meulens said.Because if they dont want to pitch to you, the next guy can do thejob.Meulens said he is encouraged, and not only becauseBusterPosey is expected back or new additions AngelPagan andMelky Cabrera promise to provide more dynamicpresences. Itsbecause all of these guys are .270 hitters or better, Meulens said. Thatswho they are. I believe the numbers will go up. They have to be. They cant goany lower. And howdid the players respond during the 30-minute meeting? Thats whats intriguing, he said.Everybody right away said, We need to do this. Were much better than we werelast year. You look around at their faces and you see, Yeah, were hungry toget better at this. And all I ask is to have that 100 percentcommitment. Because if thats not there, its not going to happen. You cansense everybody is committed, is ready to turn the page, is ready to have ouroffense be talked about as just like they talk about out pitching in a goodway. Thats our goal-- not to worry about, Oh, we didnt score enough runs again. We told them,Hey, we didnt get a big bat. Theres a reason for that. We have the guys inthis room to put runs on the board. Lets just get focused and start doingthat. Meulens mightmiss a few early days in camp, though. He and his wife should welcome a newbaby any day now.

Giants hire David Bell to fill key front office role


Giants hire David Bell to fill key front office role

SAN FRANCISCO -- A familiar face is returning to the Giants organization to serve a key front office role.

The Giants announced Friday that David Bell, their former third baseman, has been hired as Vice President of Player Development. General manager Bobby Evans said Bell will oversee all aspects of player development, including hitting, pitching, strength and conditioning and the operations of the minor league affiliates. 

"He was the perfect fit," Evans said. "His experience is so strong and encompasses so many aspects of the game. He’s got a really strong base of experience and background and understanding of the game, and he has a passion for the game and working with young players. He really showed a desire to pursue this opportunity." 

Bell, 45, played 12 major league seasons and spent 2002 with the Giants. He hit 20 homers that year as the starting third baseman and scored the winning run in the final game of the NLCS. Since retiring, Bell has served as a minor league manager for the Reds and a big league coach for the Cubs and Cardinals. He spent last season as the bench coach in St. Louis. 

Shane Turner had previously served as farm director, but at the end of the minor league season he was asked to take a role as a special assistant in baseball operations. While Evans did not announce any other changes Friday, there are expected to be other moves within the organization's depth chart. At least one member of the coaching staff is still in the running for a managerial opening. 

Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered


Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered

Firing a manager is easy, and there are lots of ways to do it.

Dusty Baker, for example. He worked this year on the last year of a contract, which usually means there won’t be another one, and he relied on his players to deliver the goods.

Which, as we remember from our reading, they didn’t do. Again.

But Baker was marked for the chop unless those players did deliver, and when they didn’t, general manager Mike Rizzo did the expedient thing.

He fired one person rather than several. And changed exactly nothing.

Baker’s managerial career is probably over now, as most teams don’t look at 68-year-olds to fix their teams. He will never manage a  World Series champion, something he ached for, and he was always be caricatured in part as the guy who didn’t speak metric, and who believed in players as men whenever in doubt.

And the Nats didn’t betray him, either. They were always not as good in the big moments because someone else was, and they became part of Washington’s new fetish – Why Can’t We Win One? It’s as if having a cringeworthy President isn’t good enough for them.

So the time came, and he will be replaced by someone who will either win and get credit for work that was largely his, or he won’t win and the town can continue to wallow in its tedious We’re-The-New-Cubs pity. It is the circle of life.

At least it is for groups of people. For individuals, the circle of life is actually nothing more than a straight line that ends abruptly. For Dusty Baker, as it did for Tony La Russa in Phoenix two days earlier, that day came today. He deserves to be remembered as a very good manager who won a lot more than he lost, made more friends than enemies, and was honest from Day One until the end.

Which, as we also know, doesn’t matter a whole lot on days like this.