Tag: Jason Giambi

Which Yankees will follow Derek Jeter to Cooperstown?

Sabathia. (Arturo Pardavilla III – CC BY 2.0)

Official announcement of Derek Jeter’s induction to the Hall of Fame will occur later today. It’ll be the second straight year featuring a Yankee, with Mariano Rivera entering Cooperstown last summer. But after these two prominent Yankees, who’s next?

Returning to the ballot for 2021

There are a number of ex-Yankees already on the ballot that will return for the next round of voting. Some are more notable than others.

On numbers alone, Roger Clemens belongs in the Hall. The Rocket spent six of his 24 seasons with the Yankees, though his best seasons were elsewhere. But more important than performance, his case is marred by allegations of statutory rape of a minor and PED usage.

Andy Pettitte will return to the ballot for a third time, but will likely fall short again. He received a respectable 9.9 percent of the votes last year; we’ll see how that shifts this season. Pettitte was a great Yankee, but falls short of Hall-worthiness statistically speaking. His link to PEDs won’t help his case anyway.

Gary Sheffield spent three seasons in pinstripes but absolutely raked while doing so (135 OPS+). He hasn’t received any higher than 13.6 percent of the vote and next year will be his seventh try. Again, PED allegations hinder his electability in spite of 509 career homer runs.

As long as they get 5 percent of the vote, Jason Giambi and Bobby Abreu will return to the ballot for a second time next year. Giambi won’t make it, but he was fun to watch hit in the Bronx from 2002 through 2008. Similarly, Abreu is going to fall short.

Ballot newcomers

Here are some notable names coming to the ballot in future years:

2021AJ Burnett, Nick Swisher
2022Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
2023Carlos Beltrán

This is a pretty interesting group upcoming. Burnett, Swisher, and Teixeira all fall short by the numbers, though of that trio, Teix seemed to be on the track at one point. The switch-hitting first baseman really fell off after 2011, his age-31 season. Through that point, he had 314 homers, a 132 OPS+, and 44.1 bWAR. But he only rebounded for one more big season — 2015 — before he retired after his age-36 season a year later. Teixeira finished with 409 homers and just under 52 WAR. A very good career, no doubt, but he just didn’t have the longevity.

Things get much more intriguing when you consider A-Rod and Beltrán. The former’s lifetime numbers are historically great: he swatted 696 homers, recorded 3,115 hits, and accumulated 117.8 WAR. However, and this is a big one: he served a season-long PED suspension in 2014. And that wasn’t the first time he used PEDs, either. In 2009, he admitted to using back when he was with the Rangers. So, even though the numbers would make him a slam dunk, the drug usage almost assuredly will keep him out of Cooperstown.

Then there’s Beltrán. Before the recent news that has dominated the baseball world, I figured Beltrán would enter the Hall eventually. He’s got the sabermetric case with just under 70 WAR, though I’m not certain people thought of him as a shoe-in. Anyway, the decision to elect him may not be so difficult after all. His transgressions in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal will undoubtedly adversely affect his candidacy. He was explicitly called out in the Commissioner’s report which will do quite a bit of damage.

The next inductee: CC Sabathia

Bobby already wrote about why Sabathia belongs in Cooperstown, so no need to rehash here. We just have to play the waiting game now. Sabathia will be eligible in five years and hopefully will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. After Jeter, he’s clearly the next individual in line to don a Yankees cap in the Hall of Fame.

Down the road

Looking forward to being 50 years-old in 2040 when Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Gerrit Cole (among others) go into the Hall as Yankees, you guys. Anyway, for fun, allow me to power rank the top five current Yankees most likely to get a plaque:

  1. Gleyber Torres
  2. Giancarlo Stanton
  3. Gerrit Cole
  4. Aaron Judge
  5. Aroldis Chapman

Time for some rapid-fire thoughts on this. I feel like picking Gleyber is bold given some of the accomplishments others on this list have, but I’ll do it no less. Stanton already has 309 homers and is just 31 years-old. Cole has a chance to cement himself as the best pitcher of his generation. Judge has Hall of Fame talent but will need a strong late career considering he didn’t start until he was 25 and has missed time because of injuries. Lastly, Chapman could end his career with the highest strikeout rate of all-time and very high up on the all-time saves list. That said, his domestic violence suspension should give voters pause.

Jason Giambi’s excellent peak won’t be enough for the Hall

(Keith Allison – cc-by-sa-2.0)

There are a number of things that will prevent Jason Giambi from immortality in Cooperstown next summer. His name’s inclusion in the BALCO scandal and Mitchell Report are sure to keep him out of consideration for many voters even before considering his numbers. Additionally, his career stats just fall short of some of the traditional milestones that ensure a plaque. But one thing’s for sure: when Giambi was at his best, he was a Hall of Fame caliber hitter.

Those are just ridiculous numbers during a nine year period — four with Oakland, five with the Yankees. And that includes his 2004 campaign, which was a lost season in which he played just 80 games and had a 90 OPS+. A thankfully benign tumor kept him off the field for much of the summer. All told, Giambi racked up nearly 45 WAR during that span.

That nine year period includes each of Giambi’s seven best seasons per WAR, one of the inputs to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric that measures Hall of Fame worthiness. Giambi’s WAR-7 is 42.2, which is right around where the average Hall of Fame first baseman stands (42.7). It’s also better than the WAR-7 for other enshrined first basemen, including: Cap Anson, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray, Harmon Killebrew, and Tony Pérez.

But Giambi only finished his career with 50.5 WAR, well short of the average first baseman in the Hall (66.8). That’s partially because he got a later start to his career — he wasn’t an everyday player until he was 25 in 1996. And once his peak ended in 2006 (at 35 years-old), he only had one more strong season thereafter (2008, his swan song in New York). He was a declining role player from there on out.

WAR isn’t everything, of course. It’s a great birds-eye view of Giambi’s merits, and it does clearly depict that Giambi isn’t Hall-worthy before contemplating PEDs. He was unquestionably one of the league’s best hitters for a good period of time, but he didn’t have the longevity of the typical Hall of Fame first baseman. Still, Giambi does have a number of accolades and numbers that make his career memorable:

  • 2000: American League MVP
  • Three top-5 AL MVP finishes, including 2000. One other time in the top-10, three others in top-18.
  • Two Silver Slugger Awards
  • 5x All-Star
  • 440 career homers (43rd All-Time)

All that with a lifetime .277/.399/.516 (139 OPS+) ain’t too shabby of a career. The PED cloud will always hover over Giambi, but those numbers are undoubtedly impressive.

Enough consideration of his Hall of Fame worthiness, though. No need to drone on about it when we know what the answer is. Instead, as this is a Yankees-centric blog, let’s turn to Giambi’s career in New York.

The power hitting first baseman inked a seven year $120 million deal with the Bombers after the 2001 season, replacing fan favorite Tino Martinez. Giambi, who had hit .338/.476/.653 (193 OPS+) with 81 homers in his final two years in Oakland didn’t get off to his best start in the Bronx. It wasn’t a poor beginning with a new club, but it was underwhelming considering what he’d done before.

Through May 11 of his first season with the Yankees, Giambi had a .273/.369/.475 line with just six homers. That’s really good! But not prime-Giambi good. He started to turn things around from there, though. He hit a homer in each of the next two games and just a couple days later, hit this memorable bomb:

The Giambino! The first baseman would go on to finish the year strong with a full season batting line of .314/.435/.598 (172 OPS+) with 41 homers and 7.1 WAR. It was his best season in pinstripes.

Giambi had another big year in 2003, with 41 homers and a 148 OPS+, but his batting average dipped to .250. He’d never exceed .300 again, but maintained his elite on-base skills thanks to a keen eye at the dish. But even in a “down” year per his standards, Giambi delivered in a big way in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS:

Before the 8th inning rally, before Mariano Rivera’s three shutout innings, and before Aaron Boone’s walk off homer, Giambi helped keep the Yankees within sniffing distance. Those two homers against nemesis Pedro Martínez were integral to one of the greatest games in history.

As mentioned earlier, Giambi missed most of 2004 because of a benign tumor. After the season, there was talk of voiding his contract as the BALCO investigation unraveled. Per the San Francisco Chronicle’s reporting, Giambi had testified to using steroids between 2001 and 2003. Obviously, Giambi stuck around and carefully apologized prior to the 2005 campaign.

On the field, things went just fine in Giambi’s next two seasons in the Bronx. He belted 69 homers and hit .262/.426/.547 (154 OPS+). During this period, one distinct memory I have of him is when I was in attendance for this walk off dinger against José Mesa:

In 2007, a foot injury derailed his season. He missed all of June and July and one week of August and ended the year with an un-Giambi like 107 OPS+.

Giambi rebounded in 2008, his final season with the Yankees. It was also his last year as an everyday player. Then 37 years-old, Giambi hit .247/.373/.502 (128 OPS+) and swatted 32 homers. He also brought the mustache craze to the Bronx:

And that was that for Giambi’s career in the Bronx. The Yankees handed the reigns to Mark Teixeira in free agency thereafter. Giambi would go on to play for Oakland again briefly in 2009, before a move to Colorado that August where he’d stay through 2012. Giambi played out the last two seasons of his career with Cleveland before hanging up his spikes after the 2014 season.

Now, Giambi is an Old-Timer. He made his first appearance at Old-Timers’ day at Yankee Stadium in 2018 and came back again this year. It’s probably safe to say that he’ll be a regular at the annual celebration for the long-term, provided he doesn’t land have a conflicting coaching gig.

So Giambi may not be headed for Cooperstown, but he had quite the career regardless. He was a prolific slugger and on-base machine for the better part of a decade. And, by the numbers, he was one of the Yankees’ best free agent signings ever. The Bombers may have never won a World Series title with Giambi, but he was a key cog in the lineup for a long time in the Bronx. Maybe he’ll get a few votes this winter, though I suspect he won’t reach the five percent threshold to remain on the ballot.

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