"Now, what is this site about, how Joe Torre ruined pitchers' arms? Is that it?"
-Michael Kay, August 18, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Did Giambi live up to expectations?

Benjamin Hoffman wrote a piece on the Times' Bats blog saying Jason Giambi lived up to expectations.

Hoffman writes:

What that is failing to account for is that Giambi actually did exactly what the Yankees signed him to do. As the face of the Oakland Athletics, Giambi embodied the spirit of patience and power that was lionized in Michael Lewis’s book “Moneyball.” Relying on his ability to draw walks and hit balls over the fence, Giambi won the 2000 American League M.V.P. and was the runner-up in 2001. At that point, no one was complaining about his defense, which was already sub-par.

Over the course of his seven years in New York, Giambi continued to do exactly the same thing. He compiled a .404 on-base percentage (fifth in Yankees history), .521 slugging percentage (seventh in Yankees history) and 209 homers (10th in Yankees history).

Making his home run total more impressive is the fact that he accomplished it in just seven seasons. Of all the storied sluggers in Yankee history, the only players who had that many over a seven-year span were Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth.

In the end, his various controversies and his poor fielding may outweigh his power and patience, but Giambi did what he was asked to do. Likely headed back to Oakland, he should go back to being celebrated for his strengths rather than blamed for his weaknesses.
I loved Giambi during his time here. He's a very likable figure and he seems to have a lot of fun playing the game. However, I don't think he lived up to expectations just because he's in the all-time top 10 of many Yankees offensive categories.

Giambi signed a seven-year, $120 million contract with the Yankees to win World Series championships (plural). During his time with the team, he only reached the World Series once. The only other year during his contract the Yankees advanced past the ALDS - 2004 - Giambi didn't play. Is this all his fault? Probably not. But like Alex Rodriguez's failures in the postseason, Giambi's lack of team postseason success will be how he's judged, fairly or unfairly.

He was productive when he was healthy, and helped the Yankees immensely in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. He was known as a high batting average, high on-base hitter with Oakland. Steroids or not, he only had one season with a batting average above .300 - his first - with the Yankees. His OPS+ was over 108 in six of his seven seasons, so that should account for something.

However, it all goes back to winning for me, and Giambi's teams only won three playoff series in seven years. He was a good player for the Yankees, and at times was great. If Aaron Boone hits a fly ball in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, Giambi could very well have a World Series ring. You have to remember, though, that when the Yankees signed Giambi, they reached the World Series five of the previous six years and won four of them.

He came in with high expectations, and now leaves not having reached them. I'm sure if you asked Giambi about his time in New York, he'd be disappointed too.

Now the circle of first baseman life starts all over again. Mark Teixeira will take Giambi's old position and old number. Hopefully these eight years will be different from Giambi's seven.

All of this being said, do you think Giambi lived up to expectations? Let me hear it in the comments.


kongon said...

I had very high expectations when Giambi signed. I remember when he was introduced he was doing the spiel most players did when coming over the Yankees. He waxed poetically about their rich history, that it was great honor to wear pinstripes, etc., etc. And he said how the Yankees don't rebuild, but reload. And who could forget the photo of him looking misty-eyed in pinstripes as he peered out at Yankee Stadium for the upcoming season. He was the one that was supposed to bring the team back to the promise land.

The Yankees and he did have great 2002 season, but winning 103 games has been the kiss of death for them in the past. Giambi no doubt felt the proverbial sting from yet another first round exit, having experienced that many a time when he was with the A's (against the Yankees, to boot!). Unfortunately, Torre's mismanagement of the post season in subsequent years did little to help the cause. As for Giambi, yeah, he did what was needed in game 7 of the '03 ALCS, but that performance was not around other years when it was REALLY needed. That's why they signed him, right?

To me, the only highlight of his career as a Yankee was when he hit that walkoff grand slam against the big, bad Twins in the bottom of the 14th(?).

Patrick said...

For me, it comes back to the numbers. Look at the numbers he put up in his last 2 years in Oakland. Those are the numbers he was paid for. You can't expect those numbers every year, that's unreasonable. Some decline would be OK, but what he did? We didn't sign the .250/.410/.540 guy we ended up with. We signed a .300/.440/.640 guy.

He was a good, valuable player throughout the majority of the contract, but he was paid top dollar and he didn't live up to it. He fell off right away.

Andrew Fletcher said...

Agreed with both thoughts. If only steroid testing came about a few years earlier...

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