Aug 17, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi (25) strikes out against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Giambi: 2014 Cleveland Indians Player Profile


Jason Giambi: Holding on to the Past

I’m of the belief that a man shouldn’t be judged by his failures, but more his successes.

So, by my own beliefs, Jason Giambi‘s 2013 season with the Cleveland Indians was a success. When I look back on last season, this is the image burned into my brain:

The Indians ended up winning out the season, which, turns out they needed to do in order to reach the Wild Card game anyways, but that win mattered the most to me. I realized two things that night: no matter what happened next, the 2013 Indians season was a success, and I had been dead wrong [Editor's note: Save a copy of this article for future reference. Ed Carroll admitted he was wrong about something. You may now go about your business.] about what Jason Giambi meant to that club.

I tweeted that moments before Giambi’s home run. I don’t put much stock into intangibles, as I’m not around the clubhouse, don’t know the players personally, and prefer to focus on what I can actually measure, without muddling #analysis regarding a player’s mental state or presence (hence, the mocking but still-hilarious hashtag, courtesy of Keith Law).

But as I heard Tom Hamilton‘s chill-inducing call of Giambi’s game-winning blast against the Chicago White Sox, I had to acknowledge that, maybe occasionally, a player is worth more to a club than the numbers he puts up (.183/.282/.371, 9 HRs, 8 2Bs in 186 ABs; -0.5 fWar). I hate boiling down a player’s season into one game, but Giambi saved the season that night, after former closer Chris Perez had surrendered two solo home runs (and wasn’t able to finish the ninth) to surrender the lead. As one of the most vocal critics of his roster spot (let alone playing time), I’m not entirely sure there are too many other players on the Indians roster who could have delivered in such a manner. A loss would likely have broken the team’s back. Giambi propped the team back up.

Jason Giambi will return to the Indians in 2014, and he will have a roster spot for the entire season, as long as he wants it.

Of course, I’m skeptical magic will strike twice, as he is now 43 years-old, and though power is certainly an “old man’s skill” (meaning it isn’t always completely eroded by age, like speed would be), it could be possible Giambi is simply an old man trying to hang on in a young man’s game.

I’m reminded of Ken Griffey, Jr.’s last two seasons, first in 2009 when he reunited with the Seattle Mariners and was a mild success (19 HRs), and then in 2010 when Seattle brought him back, and he suddenly retired in the middle of the season, at age 40, after he had been benched for poor performance (and “Napgate“).

Sep 24, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi (25) hits a game-winning two-run home run in the ninth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Now, there are some major differences between Giambi and Griffey, Jr.: Giambi has never been promised regular playing time, and embraces his role as the pinch-hitter, sometimes-DH and player-coach. If Giambi isn’t in the lineup, we know he’s not in the clubhouse taking a nap (to be fair, it’s still somewhat unclear if Griffey, Jr. was ever actually asleep in the clubhouse). On a team that skews young, even with a respected manager like Terry Francona, Giambi is a solid presence to have when the going gets tough.

Will #veteranpresents be enough to justify Giambi’s roster spot in 2014? I can’t tell you (glad you wasted all your time reading this?). I can tell you that despite my skepticism, Jason Giambi proved enough to me to at least not question his roster spot come Opening Day. He’s on a minor-league deal, but it seems implied that if he wants to be on this team, he will be on this team.

And if Giambi wants to be on this team, then I guess I shrug my shoulders, smile, and remember how I felt on Sept. 24, 2013. It might have taken all season, but he more than proved he deserved his roster spot in 2013. And in 2014, I won’t make the same mistake to dismiss what he brings to the Cleveland Indians.

Sometimes the stats don’t tell everything.

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