Most baseball transactions are based primarily on production on the field. Some, however, are motivated by more abstract reasoning based on intangibles, leadership and veteran presence. When the Giambino was brought back into the fold last January, it was primarily for the latter:
"It became very clear to me how much of an integral part he was in leadership and accountability and the standards of what we're trying to become here," O'Dowd said. "I think that was probably first and foremost in the decision to bring him back." -ESPN.com
The true value of these intangibles is debatable, and I won't bother to wage war with those who swear by their validity. After all, I have never been a part of a professional baseball clubhouse, or even a varsity high school clubhouse. But by all accounts, he perfectly fulfilled the purported primary reason for his existence on the roster. On a disappointing team riddled with under-performing hitters, that is nothing to scoff at, even if the bar of expectation was set lower.
On the other hand, not many questioned his ability to fulfill the veteranessitude portion of the roster when he was signed. At least I didn't. The issue was how his on-field game would fit.
The Rockies needed a platoon partner for Todd Helton, who admitted at the end of 2009 to being exhausted for the first time in his career. Dan O'Dowd chose an aging left-handed slugger who had such a miserable 2009, Erik Manning of Fangraphs proclaimed Giambi's career likely over when he was released from Oakland last August. Seven admittedly magical hits in 24 at-bats with the Rockies was enough to convince O'Dowd that Giambi would double as "a legitimate bat in the middle of our lineup."
I had my doubts, which were compounded by the defensive inflexibility his presence provided. His lefty bat at first base was redundant, and his inability to play other positions projected to create defensive flexibility issues.
Take the jump to review how it all worked out.
By the end of April, signing Jason Giambi appeared to be Dan O'Dowd's worst offseason move. Packaged with Melvin Mora on the bench, the infield had almost no defensive flexibility, and Giambi appeared to have lost all the magic he channeled at Coors the previous September. He batted just .118 through April 30 while striking out in nearly half his at-bats, looking overmatched against mediocre fastballs thrown by pitchers who were pre-pubescent during his MVP season.
While his fearsome biceps unnerved pitchers enough to walk him (a lot, and I don't blame them - he's a scary, scary man), he had failed to get many big hits. That started to change on June 23, a day in which his batting average started at a paltry .194. If that date doesn't refresh your memory, maybe this video will:
His bat started to come around in time for July, fantastic timing considering that Todd Helton missed 23 games that month. The 39-year-old hit a fearsome .409/.527/.455 in July, which kept Brad Eldred from being an everyday player.
Giambi limped to the finish with very poor August and September performances, yet he still managed to tie Melvin Mora for fourth on the team in wRC+ (107), wOBA (.344) and OPS (.776) by the end of the season. While his ranking is partially a reflection to the underperformance of the rest of the roster, I can honestly say Giambi provided much more at the plate than I expected, and for that, I salute the Giambino.
Dan O'Dowd has more or less publicly admitted that Giambi really put Jim Tracy in a bind regarding his bench, essentially sealing that the Rockies will go in another direction in 2011. Todd Helton's platoon partner will instead exhibit a little more right-handedness and an ability to also play catcher, corner outfield, third base or potentially second base. That leaves Giambi will be taking his thong jokes elsewhere, likely one with an American League team in need of a designated hitter if he can get it.