Quick Notes: Managerial Search, Shohei Ohtani, Non-Tenders


This morning Brian Cashman took a practice run rappelling down the Landmark Building in Stamford as part of the annual Heights & Lights Festival. He also spoke to reporters and passed along two important pieces of information, one surprising and one not so surprising. Here’s the latest, via all the wonderful reporters in attendance.

Managerial interviews are over

First the surprising news: Cashman said the Yankees will not interview any more managerial candidates. The job will go to one of the six men they’ve interviewed: Carlos Beltran, Aaron Boone, Hensley Meulens, Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, and Chris Woodward. (Mark Feinsand says a clear frontrunner emerged during the interview process.) Furthermore, Cashman said there will not be a second round of interviews in Tampa. The next step is making a final recommendation to Hal Steinbrenner and that’ll be that.

Also, interestingly enough, Cashman said he consulted Alex Rodriguez several times during the process. A-Rod didn’t want the job — “He never expressed interest in any way, shape, or form,” said Cashman — but Cashman said he got Alex’s insight on the various candidates. A-Rod and Beltran are super close. The fact this is all suddenly wrapping up, with the second round of interviews canceled, right after Beltran’s interview is intriguing. Coincidence? Maybe. But intriguing. Anyway, a poll:

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Yankees will pursue Shohei Ohtani

Now the not-so-surprising news: the Yankees will indeed pursue Ohtani, Cashman confirmed. They are prepared to let him both pitch and hit, which seems like a prerequisite for signing him. Here’s a snippet of what Cashman said about Ohtani:

“It’s a big stage here and it’s meant to have the best talent to play on it. Ohtani represents the next great talent that is available in the world of baseball. This stage is made for players like this … This is an impact type player that we feel would make us better. I think we have a great situation going on here with a lot of young players … I think he’d be a perfect fit for us.”

Ohtani was officially posted earlier today, and already there are some wild rumors floating around. He’s narrowed his list down to three teams! He doesn’t want to play with another Japanese star! I get the sense we’re going to hear lots more stuff like that over the next three weeks. For now, all we know for certain is that Ohtani has been posted, and Cashman said the Yankees will pursue him.

Yankees tender all eligible players

One last quick note: the Yankees tendered all their eligible players contracts prior to today’s deadline, the team announced. Can’t say I’m surprised. Austin Romine was the only real non-tender candidate and I never thought the Yankees would actually non-tender him, and they didn’t, so there you go.

Update: Yankees interview Aaron Boone, Hensley Meulens for managerial job

Bam Bam. (Getty)
Bam Bam. (Getty)

Friday: The Yankees interviewed Meulens yesterday and Boone today, the team announced. I’ve seen a few beat writers on Twitter say Meulens was impressive. Impressive during his conference call, at least. Thomson, Wedge, Meulens, and Boone are the four candidates so far. Supposed the Yankees are only going to interview five or six. Chris Woodward is rumored to be another candidate.

Monday: According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees will interview both Aaron Boone and Hensley Meulens for their managerial opening. There’s no word on when exactly they will interview. Also, Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees asked the Athletics for permission to interview their manager Bob Melvin, but the A’s said no.

Boone was first mentioned as a managerial candidate last week. He played for the Yankees briefly in 2003 — you may remember that home run he hit — and has been working as an analyst for ESPN since he retired a few years ago. Boone has no coaching or managerial experience, but these days teams aren’t shy about hiring rookie skippers. It initially wasn’t clear whether he’d actually get an interview, but now we know he will.

Meulens, 50, was a top prospect with the Yankees way back when. He’s one of the most famous busts in franchise history, in fact. Following his playing career Bam Bam gradually worked his way up the minor league coaching ranks before joining the Giants. He was their hitting coach from 2010-17 — Meulens was on the coaching staff for their three recent World Series titles — and was named their bench coach this offseason.

In addition to his MLB work, Meulens has also coached and managed in international competition over the years. He and Didi Gregorius are close. They work together each winter and were both part of the The Netherlands’ World Baseball Classic squad earlier this year. Like just about everyone from Curacao, Meulens speaks multiple languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, and Papiamento. That is an obvious plus for a manager. Meulens has been considered a future manager for several years now.

So far the Yankees have only interviewed Rob Thomson and Eric Wedge for their managerial opening. Brian Cashman told Mark Feinsand the next interview is set for Thursday — things are on hold while Cashman is at the GM Meetings the next few days — though he declined to say who it’ll be with. Could be Boone, could be Meulens, could be someone else entirely. We’ll find out soon enough.

When Prospects Bust: Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens

Hensley Meulens, right, with Alvaro Espinoza (photo by Andrea Modica, andreamodica.com)

Among the many wonderful things about being a baseball fan are the bizarre attachments one tends to form — generally as a youngster — toward relatively obscure players who don’t end up doing anything noteworthy. Yet because you were seven years old and had their baseball card, they’re indelibly seared in your mind.

As a young Yankee fan whose earliest memories of the team begin around the 1988 season, I had to not only contend with scores of my Met-fan peers deriding me (it seems crazy now, but the Mets actually did at one time rule the baseball landscape in New York City), but also grow fond of an incredibly uninspiring and lackluster group of players. The franchise’s nadir (the 1990 squad is among the worst in team history, with the third-most losses of any Yankee team; and the 1989 through 1992 seasons represents arguably the worst consecutive four-year stretch in franchise history) coincided with my burgeoning obsession with the team.

Now, not everyone who played for the Yankees during the dark years was terrible. Like most Yankee fans my age, Don Mattingly was my favorite player growing up, and we were also treated to…um…hmm…well, at least we had Donnie Baseball. Rickey Henderson actually posted several incredible years for the Yanks (from 1985-1988 he was actually better than D. Baseball, with a .405 wOBA, 154 wRC+ and 28.4 fWAR across nearly 2,500 plate appearances), though given his non-homegrown-ness I don’t recall ever truly warming up to ol’ Rickey. Willie Randolph showed impressive plate discipline before walks were even in vogue, but no pop at all; while Dave Winfield, though offensively robust, seemed aloof and unrelatable. Outside of these stalwarts, the talent level of the Yankee offensive corps around this time ranged from reasonable (Jack Clark, Andy Stankiewicz, Jesse Barfield) to wholly unacceptable (Alvaro Espinoza, Pat Kelly, Randy Velarde, Bob Geren).

At some point within that 1989-1992 four-year period my dad took me to a Yankees-Mets exhibition game at Yankee Stadium. Back in the day the Yankees and Mets played an annual set of exhibition games under several different banners (among them “Big Apple Series,” “Mayor’s Trophy Game” and “Mayor’s Challenge”), and being that the Mets were the superior team at the time I remember thinking that these contests were a pretty big deal. Given how poor the Yankees’ plight was at the time, something as silly as bragging rights based on the outcome of a couple of exhibition games actually held some meaning. I have tried in vain to locate the actual date and boxscore of the game I attended, but as this was pre-internet there doesn’t seem to be anything definitive regarding the Yankees’ old spring training schedules out there. (Note: The Yankees and Mets are actually playing each other this spring on April 3rd and 4th, marking the first time the teams will have met in spring training since 1996).

The one thing I can tell you is that I distinctly remember being beyond excited to get to see Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens play in person. At the time I seem to recall Meulens — signed by the Yankees as an undrafted free agent in 1985 — was being hyped as the Yankees’ next big homegrown power bat, in case you couldn’t tell by the fact that his nickname was “Bam Bam.” Based on Meulens’ 1990 season, in which he obliterated AAA to the tune of a .285/.376/.510 line over 559 PAs and earned him a September call-up (not to mention the International League MVP) that saw him hit a slightly more modest-but-still-reasonable .241/.337/.434 (115 OPS+) in 95 PAs, I’m almost certain the Yankee-Met game I attended would have been held in the spring of 1991, on the heels of Meulens’ breakout year. Otherwise I have no idea how I’d have even been aware of him.

Anyway, the only thing I remember from the game is that Meulens did in fact hit a home run (I think the Yankees won, but again, we’re talking over 20 years ago), seemingly cementing his status — along with, of course, Kevin Maas, who also broke out in the latter half of 1990 — as the next big homegrown Yankee player.

Unfortunately for Meulens (and Yankee fans), his first full season in pinstripes was a disaster. After breaking camp with the team, Meulens stayed in the bigs the entire year, but his wretched .222/.276/.319 (65 OPS+) line across 313 PAs limited him to action in only 96 team games (in a move right out of the Joe Torre managing handbook, the right-handed Meulens’ struggles against right-handed pitching — which apparently dominated the American League in 1991 — opened the door for more playing time for veteran Mel Hall). Meulens was demoted to Columbus for the 1992 season and, despite hitting .275/.352/.481 in 603 AAA plate appearances, stayed in the minors the entire year save two late September games in the Bronx. I suppose the team was pleased with Charlie Hayes’ .257/.297/.409 line (97 OPS+) at the hot corner that season, although Meulens must have really fallen out of favor to have languished in AAA the entire year.

Meulens never recovered. In 1993 he again began the year at AAA, got called to the Bronx in late May, hit .170/.279/.340 over 61 PAs, and was demoted again two months later. Meulens finished the 1993 season at AAA Columbus, ultimately posting the weakest line of his min0r-league career. The Yankees released him in November of 1993, and he played in Japan from 1994-1996. Meulens headed back to the U.S. prior to the 1997 season, signing with the Braves, who released him during spring training, and then latching on with the Expos.

Meulens again spent most of the 1997 season at AAA, putting up a fine .274/.369/.501 line, and did the most he could with very limited playing time in another September call-up (.292/.379/.583 in 29 PAs), but was released at the end of the year. He spent most of the 1998 season with the Diamondbacks’ AAA squad before being traded to the White Sox at the 1998 trade deadline. However, for reasons I can’t sort out, he only played in two games for Chicago’s AAA affiliate after the trade, so presumably he was injured for the majority of the remainder of the season.

Hensley Meulens never stepped to the plate in the Major Leagues again after May 14, 1998, thus closing the book on the MLB career of a man whose power was supposed to have been legend but who ultimately only swatted 15 big league home runs. Per Wikipedia, Meulens subsequently spent time with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League in 1999; made one last stop in Asia, playing 14 games with the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization and batting only .196; then headed to the Mexican League with the Saraperos de Saltillo in 2001; and finally retired, in 2002, after a mid-season injury while playing with the Pericos de Puebla. In the ensuing years Meulens has since carved out a successful career as a Minor and Major League coach, and currently serves as the hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants, with whom he won a ring in 2010.

Happily, Meulens seems to be at peace with his place as a hitter in a baseball history. Last July he was quoted in the aforelinked Wall Street Journal story:

Meulens, meanwhile, met a similar fate. A native of Curacao, he was nicknamed “Bam Bam” for the staggering power that produced—legend has it—500-foot home runs in varied minor-league towns. “That’s no exaggeration,” says Ralph Kraus, Meulens’s teammate at Class A Prince William in 1987. “I’d never seen anyone hit balls as far as he did.”

Yet for all his oomph, Meulens never adjusted to major-league pitching. In 288 at-bats in 1991, he hit six home runs while striking out 97 times. “It was my fault,” says Meulens, who now works—somewhat ironically—as the San Francisco Giants’ hitting coach. “I was a highly touted prospect who never figured it all out. That’s on me.” Like (Kevin) Maas, he was eventually released.

Not that you ever want to see anyone fail, but it’s refreshing to see Meulens own up to his struggles, and I’m glad he’s found his calling back in the big leagues.