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Swinging for the Fences: The case for bringing back Giambi

The veteran DH wants to return and the Tribe should grant his wish

Swinging for the Fences: The case for bringing back Giambi
October 29, 2013
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When it was originally announced that veteran designated hitter Jason Giambi was signed to a minor league deal by the Indians, I didn’t think much of it nor did I think it would amount to anything. "I" being the same person who is now the proud owner of a “Goon Squad” t-shirt. "I" being the same person who witnessed Giambi’s pinch-hit, 2-run walk-off home run on September 24th against the White Sox.

Okay, so my original judgment wasn’t quite accurate. I apologize, Mr. G.

The veteran DH has expressed a desire to play again next year and return to the Indians. As he’ll be blowing out 43 candles on his birthday cake next season and not surprisingly is no longer putting up anywhere close to the same MVP-type numbers he did in his storied career, let alone even playing on a regular basis, why should Chris Antonetti re-up his deal for 2014? After all, he is only a year removed from being a finalist for the Colorado Rockies managerial position.

Rather than taking a mere glance at his season stats and writing him off as a washed up has-been, picture the bottom of the ninth inning with the Indians down to their last hope and needing a big knock. Who does Terry Francona summon from the bench? Nine times out of ten in 2013 it was the Giambino himself. At that moment, his age, his past and his batting average are tossed to the wind and I am confident that neither Tito, nor the players in the dugout, nor many of the fans watching live would disagree that there’s a good chance of something special happening.

It’s what he did both on and off the field that established his value with the Tribe. His three pinch-hit home runs and .271 batting average with runners in scoring position are solid as far as numbers go, but it’s the respect and admiration from his teammates and coaches that has continually grown throughout the season where his value is truly established.

It’s the bear hugs from Jason Kipnis that Giambi has received on numerous occasions over the course of the season.

It’s the words of encouragement Giambi has offered to a struggling hitter or pitcher during the year and even during games.

Those are the things that can’t be measured by a number, equation or sabremetric acronym.

Terry Francona has not been hesitant to sing Big G’s praises at any point this season and has been emphatic about pointing out how valuable he is to the Tribe.

This is not just any aging player providing veteran leadership. This is a guy who has helped Tito get the very best out of his young and relatively inexperienced team. Some may call that an exaggeration. I call it a fact.

The 2013 Indians were something special. While they’ll go down in the record books as one-and-done wild card team, the chemistry, character and resilience they embodied is something many Tribe faithful won’t soon forget, myself included. While it’s tough to single out anyone not named Terry Francona for their leadership on this team, Jason Giambi is about as close as you can get.

Could they get the same type of presence and leadership from Giambi as a bench or hitting coach rather than a player? Possibly, and I’m sure Tito and Chris Antonetti will make that offer if an agreement can’t be reached with Giambi as a player.

Still, there’s something special about having him on the field as one of the players and providing hands-on leadership that his teammates obviously appreciate. Of course, I’m speaking as a mere spectator, however, the love and admiration everyone in that clubhouse has for the veteran DH is hard to miss.

Jake’s Takes

Giants sign Tim Lincecum to 2-year/$35 million contract extension...

If this deal sets the wheels in motion for the rest of the free agent pitching market, Cleveland fans can kiss Ubaldo Jimenez goodbye. I wish I could say I was surprised by this, but I’m not. Unfortunately, due to the state of the pitching market, aces are signed to contracts worth more than the GDP of small nations while mediocre hurlers such as Edwin Jackson are getting multi-year deals. It makes me so thankful that the Tribe isn’t nearly as pitching impaired as they were thought to be at the beginning of the year.

Of course, Antonetti & Co. can go back to the scrap heap and try to find more lightning in a bottle (a la Scott Kazmir) or take a chance on another veteran starter. Regardless, if the Indians’ priority is beefing up the offense this offseason, I’d imagine their activity in the pitching market won’t go much beyond window shopping outside of Jimenez and Kazmir.

Gold Glove Finalists revealed...

Fair warning, this is my “sound like a homer rant”. Late last week, Major League Baseball unveiled the finalists on the ballot for the Gold Glove awards. What I found interesting, which is the nice way of putting it, were the finalists for the American League Gold Glove representative in left field. Kansas City’s Alex Gordon headlined the ballot, not surprisingly. However, it was Andy Dirks of the Tigers and Yoenis Cespedes of the A’s that rounded out the candidates.

My question to the coaches is, have you heard of a guy named Michael Brantley? The Tribe’s smooth operator out in the left flank not only had a perfect fielding percentage, but also was second in the league in outfield assists at 11. Many a base runner had to take that long, humiliating walk back to the dugout for getting greedy on the base paths and trying to challenge the arm of Brantley.

Cespedes is an exciting talent, but him having played only 94 games in left field in 2013 and still committed four errors in that time seems to cast aspersions on his eligibility. As far as Dirks, his 35 fewer games logged and four less assists than Brantley plus two errors raise some eyebrows as well.

In the end, Alex Gordon will likely win the award and he deserves to, but after watching a guy like Brantley go out and grind as hard as he did every night with little or no recognition gets frustrating at times.

Jim Leyland steps down as Tigers manager...

As a Tribe fan, I don’t have quite the same heartfelt farewell for Jim Leyland as part of his illustrious managerial career includes leading the 1997 then-Florida Marlins to a World Series championship over the Indians as well as managing the division rival Tigers for the past eight seasons. Nevertheless, my aversion doesn’t take away from the accomplishments of his 22-year career, including six division championships, three pennants and a World Series ring.

It’ll be very interesting to see how Detroit goes about finding a replacement. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has been a top candidate, although he has other skipper-less teams inquiring of his services. Other potential candidates include newly out of work managers such as Dusty Baker and Eric Wedge. Heck, even our old friendManny Acta has been brought up in speculations.

While it’s unlikely at this point, would you be able to handle seeing both Sandy Alomar and Victor Martinez in Tigers uniforms?

Final Thoughts 

While we wait for the conclusion of the World Series and the offseason to officially open for business, speculations and predictions of the Indians’ game plan run rampant among fans and analysts. There are numerous scenarios which can come to fruition this offseason for the Tribe and many options to choose from when filling in holes on the roster, but when it comes to finding leadership as effective as what Jason Giambi has brought to the table, this is an opportunity the Indians should take advantage of.

Veteran players nearing the end of the line in their careers are a dime a dozen in baseball and just many of them can be had with a minor league deal. But how many of them can instantly win the affection of an entire ball club and help electrify a fan base?

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

User Comments

Tony
October 29, 2013 - 1:09 PM EDT
I think it is a foregone conclusion Giambi will be back, it just depends on what role it will be. I don't foresee this issue resolving itself until late in the offseason as the Indians will look to make upgrades to the roster and then probably extend him a minor league deal so he doesn't take up a 40-man spot until needed at the end of spring training if he makes the team.
Nick
October 29, 2013 - 9:18 AM EDT
Don't need to convince me, Giambi still has more pop in his bat for a late game PH then anyone in the system and has a great eye. If we had something to replace him with, sure, but overall with the flexibility of this club you can afford to keep Giambi in there. Clutch guy, everyone loves him and he's shown time and time again that he can come up big when it matters.

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