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The Indians want Jason Giambi back next year, no matter what

Oct 9, 2013, 8:44 AM EDT

Chicago White Sox v Cleveland Indians Getty Images

Jason Giambi will be 43 years-old next season and he has not been a full-time player since he left the Yankees following the 2008 campaign. But, unlike so many younger guys (and unlike a lot of better hitters) Giambi will not have to search around for a roster spot next spring. Indeed, on Monday both Indians general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona said they’d love to have him back:

“We would like to continue our relationship with ‘G’ probably as long as he would like to,” Francona said Monday . . . If Giambi for whatever reason does decide to hang it up, Antonetti stated he will have a spot to come back and be a part of the Indians in a coaching capacity.

“If Jason, once he gets to that point where he no longer wants to play we’d love to have him with this organization,” Antonetti said.

Antonetti added, though, that he knows Giambi wants to play and that that’s fine with him.

Even last spring, when he was new to the Indians, you could tell that Terry Francona and the coaching staff loved having Giambi around. Francona and Nick Swisher both told me when I visited Indians camp that Giambi was like having another coach around. A coach who could, on occasion, hit walkoff home runs in the midst of a pennant race. Not a bad combo.

Of course that doesn’t mean that Giambi is the wisest use of a roster spot purely in terms of production. Despite his occasional heroics he hit just .183/.282/.371 in 216 plate appearances. That wouldn’t fly with most players, but it would seem that what Giambi brings in terms of mentorship, veteran presence and those sorts of things continue to make him valuable in the eyes of Antonetti and Francona. Their team, their call.

But whatever his merits, I continue to marvel at Giambi’s late career. It’s so rare to see guys who were once MVP-caliber players transform into role players — very narrow role players — as thoroughly as Giambi has. If he plays next year it will be his seventh as a bench bat/DH type in what will by then be a 20-year major league career. Who else has done that?

He obviously doesn’t need the money. And nothing he is doing now is going to lead to much more than fleeting fame or glory as a ballplayer (those days have passed).  He’s just doing it, it seems, because he loves (and maybe needs) baseball. And because everyone around him values him and wants him around too. And there’s something fantastic about that.

  1. zzalapski - Oct 9, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Reminds me of Rickey Henderson, in that he’s going to keep playing until no one gives him a uniform.

    • chip56 - Oct 9, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      I saw Rickey Henderson at Yankee Stadium for Old Timer’s Day this year. Give him a couple of weeks in the minors to get his timing right and I bet he could still give you a decent .260/.345 with 15 homers and 25 steals in part time duty. :-)

      • conservativeorganizer - Oct 9, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Ricky brought the house down the day he slid into home after hitting a home run in San Diego. He passed Ty Cobb as the all time runs scored leader with 2,246. It was a Thursday afternoon game at the end of the season played at QualComm Stadium.

        We had bought tickets in the cheap seats and went with the idea of sitting outside to drink beer on a sunny San Diego day. We laughed our rear ends off at Ricky being Ricky. His timing was right by doing his stunt in the 3rd inning. We finished off beer number 1 and headed for the concession stand before it got too crowded.

  2. yankeepunk3000 - Oct 9, 2013 at 9:16 AM

    Giambi was always my favorite player growing up. Ever since he put the pinstripes I loved the guy and till now I follow him on every team from the As to the Rockies who loved him to the Indians that seem to want him more. He’s going to be a great coach one day and when he manages a team I would root for them as well. Keep it up Giambino never let the bat fall.

  3. historiophiliac - Oct 9, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    I’m so depressed that he’s still going and Thome is not. :(

    • chip56 - Oct 9, 2013 at 10:28 AM

      It’s because Giambi accepted a role that Thome didn’t want.

      • Kevin Gillman - Oct 9, 2013 at 1:26 PM

        Exactly, the Indians offered Thome the same role this past season. Thome rejected it, I guess he still wants to play everyday, despite being a pinch hitter in Philly the year before that. I wonder how that is going for him. At least Giambi is going to leave the game under his own terms, one way or the other.

      • chip56 - Oct 9, 2013 at 2:16 PM

        It’s like Craig said in the article; going from really good/great regular to pinch hitter isn’t for everyone. In some cases it’s the role, in some cases it’s the money. Had Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Kenny Lofton, Vlad, Thome been willing to accept that change they might have extended their careers.

      • Kevin Gillman - Oct 9, 2013 at 2:41 PM

        I think Giambi too has shown to be a great mentor of sorts to the young team. I also think he would be a good coach/manager some day too. I guess the ball will be in Jason’s court as far as what he wants to do next.

  4. garyzx7r - Oct 9, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    Glad Cleveland still wants him, looking forward to next year

  5. stoutfiles - Oct 9, 2013 at 9:38 AM

    Jason Giambi: “I just wanna let you know that bringing me back to hit is… probably… a good idea.”

    Roger Dorn: “Jason, I admire the work you’ve done. The way you hit the ball that one time was amazing.”

    Lou Brown: “What Roger is trying to say, Jason, is that we’re not carrying a 43 year-old player who can’t hit above .200. We’d like you to stick around as a coach.”

  6. dlf9 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    It’s so rare to see guys who were once MVP-caliber players transform into role players — very narrow role players — as thoroughly as Giambi has. If he plays next year it will be his seventh as a bench bat/DH type in what will by then be a 20-year major league career. Who else has done that?

    The first person who came to mind was Rusty Staub. Rusty, at his best, wasn’t quite the player Giambi was, but he was a 6 time all star who in his prime from age 23-32, had a 137 OPS+. Rusty ended his career as a part time DH and pinch hitter for eight seasons , the last six of which he averaged less than one PA per team-game while holding down a 109 OPS+

    • larrytsg - Oct 9, 2013 at 6:40 PM

      Kind of reminds me of Omar Vizquel, though they didn’t keep him around for the bat… other than 2010 with the White Sox, he never played more than 100 games in the last 5 seasons he was active, but he graciously took on the role of mentor.

  7. whitdog23 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    dude, do you think calc remembers rusty staub? you have to be at least 45 to remember him. calc is barely 25. he’s only heard of rusty staub if he’s watched a rerun of mccarver’s lame talk show

  8. largebill - Oct 9, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    This is obvious proof that teams do not need 25 man rosters. Or at least that the Indians are comfortable with 24.

  9. genericcommenter - Oct 9, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Plus, they can always borrow the golden thong.

  10. romoscollarbone - Oct 9, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    This is madness! No, this is Cleveland

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