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Jason Giambi: “he’s not a veteran, he’s the veteran”

Mar 6, 2013, 2:04 PM EDT

Jason Giambi

Those are the words Terry Francona used to describe Jason Giambi this morning, responding to a question about the “veteran presence” Giambi brings to the Indians clubhouse. Francona is strongly of the view that Giambi is not just veteran presence. He’s almost like an additional coach. And not just for the young kids. He’s an influence on everyone, from the rookies to the old guys and everyone in between.

It’s been a weird six months for Giambi. As the season ended I think most people would have bet the farm that his career was over. He interviewed for the Rockies manager job, backed out when it was clear that they were only offering candidates one-year deals (like the one Walt Weiss eventually took). He also passed on the Rockies’ hitting coach job.  I asked him about that this morning and he said that it just would have been weird, having been on the team the past few years and having a new manager in the dugout.  He worried that it could create problems for Weiss trying to establish himself if anyone — as often happened when he was a player — came to him for advice due to their comfort with him in situations when they should be talking to the manager.

With his power gone and his coaching ambitions on hold at least for a while, one would have assumed that he’d fade away for a time. He did too, actually, and was as surprised as anyone when Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona called him. But he still feels like he has some gas in the tank and is happy to contribute however he can, even if it’s only once or twice a week. He’s happy to be a coach in the dugout. He said it’s probably no accident that his locker is next to Jason Kipnis‘, and that he views it as part of his job to help guys who will be the Indians’ team leaders in the coming years to grow into the role.

About all that: one of the things that has amazed me about Giambi’s path is that he is one of the few MVP-level superstars who successfully transitioned into a role player late in his career. Some just quit when they’re no longer a starter. Some do it against their will, but don’t really take to it. Giambi, though, has been filling small roles for four years now, going into a fifth. And he doesn’t seem to mind. I asked him why and he said “the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back.”

And that’s the question: will his name be on the back of an Indians jersey when the Tribe breaks camp at the end of the month?  Over the weekend it was reported that Giambi looks destined for the 25-man roster. When asked about it this morning, Francona says that he’s not yet thinking about the roster decisions, and even if he were, he didn’t want to signal those decisions yet because the guys in the clubhouse can do the math too, and he doesn’t want anyone thinking the deck is stacked against them.

But you listen to Giambi talk and — more importantly — you listen to Francona talk, and it seems like the old gray slugger is going to have one more season in the bigs.

  1. DelawarePhilliesFan - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    Yes, but is he a professional?

    • ezthinking - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      Seems alot like Giambi is being praised for being what Michael Young is routinely hated for… a veteran presence.

      I’m not a Young apologist, but he is routinely run down in this blog, but somehow Giambi is lifted up by the same qualities. Odd.

      I’ll save a few of you the next few posts – yeah but Giambi knows he can’t play every day, he makes little money, no one is counting on him, and blah, blah, blah. Then why take a roster spot instead of having him as bench coach? Why is Young the in the same position – one of 25 roster spots?

      Young’s 6 years younger and can still catch a ball – mostly what’s hit at him. Players say the same things about him as they do for Giambi. Unless you’re just trolling Phills and Rangers fans, nothing wrong with that, save this endless praise for Giambi.

      • DelawarePhilliesFan - Mar 7, 2013 at 9:49 AM

        Just to be clear – my original quote as a subtle jab at Craig. When Young was called a “professional”, he whipped out the dictionary and focused on the literal defintiion of the word – and hence mocked it as meaningless. If Giambi was on the Phillies and Michael Young an Indian, these articles would have flipped in their focus.

        I am fine with the Phillies having Michael Young

  2. humanexcrement - Mar 6, 2013 at 2:34 PM

    Notice how the public forgave Giambi for his PED use. Now why might that be? Could it be that he didn’t break any major power records, eclipse 500 home runs or 60 in a season? Is it that he is unlikely to go to the HOF, with or without PEDs, so it isn’t really a controversy? Maybe, but I think the real reason is that he handled it like a man. Though he never specifically admitted it to the public, neither did bask in glory like a god among men and then go on national television crying crocodile tears and begging everyone’s forgiveness, or lie to Congress or plead the fifth. And when summoned to Bud Selig’s office, he publicly stated that he would do so only on one condition, namely that he would not give information about any other player. When the Feds start knocking on your door, kiddies, it’s time to start telling the truth. That Giambi has turned a youthful mistake into a genuine example to young players, namely what not to do, and how to handle yourself if you have done something wrong, is why the public has forgiven him. He didn’t commit perjury, play the public for sympathy, beg forgiveness after being caught, use his controversy for sensationalist, money-making books, or call out any other players. That’s why he’s been forgiven in the public eye. And that’s why he’s still around.

    • nategearhart - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:28 PM

      You give a lot of people the benefit of the doubt. I’m afraid I’m more inclined to believe it’s because of the first things you said.

      • humanexcrement - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:40 PM

        I have moments when I think those things too. But I do think his handling of the situation is why he’s so respected in the game to this day, at the very least.

      • rcquinn1972 - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        I am a die hard Red Sox fan, with no reason to like this guy at all. But he handled the issue like a man, and deserves the respect he has EARNED in the league.

    • fanofevilempire - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      he was sorry he used that stuff……………………..

    • Kevin S. - Mar 6, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      Not sure the “plead the Fifth” jab in there really separates Giambi from McGwire. Giambi testified before a secret grand jury with immunity in hand. McGwire testified in front of a public grandstanding exhibition without immunity. The difference between McGwire and Giambi is almost entirely one of circumstances.

      • humanexcrement - Mar 6, 2013 at 6:29 PM

        McGwire plead the fifth because the statute of limitations on steroid use is four years and he had only been retired for three at the time. In retrospect, I guess it’s understandable, but it’s a little hard to feel sorry for him when he cries on national television after being the national hero for years and years, lying through his teeth and making money hand over fist…now he regrets it? No, he just regrets getting caught.

    • 2077james - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:08 PM

      He’s been helped by the fact that he doesn’t appear to be a dick – unlike Bonds, Clemens, Sosa…

    • paperlions - Mar 6, 2013 at 5:56 PM

      Nah, it’s the first thing you said. It is easy to handle something “like a man” (whatever that means) when no one really cares that you did it. Unlike players that broke records or had HOF careers, no one cares that Giambi used, no one would read repeated articles dragging him through the mud, so no one asked him any questions about it after the initial public revelation. He never even admitted what he did, ever. Not once.

      In short, everyone just ignored him because they didn’t care….and the reason they didn’t care didn’t have to do with “respect”, but because he didn’t do anything that anyone cared about.

      • humanexcrement - Mar 7, 2013 at 4:47 PM

        “It is easy to handle something like a man…” probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say. However “whatever that means” tells me all I need to know.

  3. cowboyzshininstar - Mar 6, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    Love Giambi, started watching baseball because of him. Back in the A days. If he has a little gusto left in him. I’d like to see him put it to good use. He’s with a team with a great club of guys and one of the great manager Francona. Maybe Phil’s fans might contest that lol

  4. badintent - Mar 7, 2013 at 1:17 AM

    Does he get to redo the Pert Shampoo commmercials ?

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