SEPTEMBER 10, 2004
Move Over Buhner, Here Comes Giambi
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

Ever since Jason Giambi's 2004 season officially became a dud, every so often I found myself thinking about his 2000 through 2002 campaigns.  All three of those seasons for Giambi were of "MVP" caliber.  The 2003 season was a very good one for Jason as well - though it was not at the levels of those three consecutive years from 2000 through 2002.

While pondering this, I became curious as to how many other batters had "MVP type seasons" for three years (or more) in a row.  For purposes of defining "MVP type season" the measure of an OPS +200 points above league average was used in working up a list.  (For the record, Giambi had an OPS of +200 points above the league average in each season from 2000 to 2002.)  The results of this study was a long register of great players - over 60 batters, in fact.  

The "great names" that you expect to find on a list like this were all there:  Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Honus Wagner, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Alex Rodriguez, Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, Tris Speaker, Mel Ott, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays.  Several of these greats had consecutive season strings (of OPS +200 vs. League Average) much longer than three years.

There were other great players making it who some might not immediately think about at first blush.  These include Al Simmons, Albert Belle, Todd Helton, Duke Snider, Edgar Martinez, Hank Greenberg, Jeff Bagwell, Joe Morgan, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas, Johnny Mize, Eddie Collins, Ken Griffey Jr., Wade Boggs, Harry Heilmann, Mark McGwire, Hack Wilson, Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Chuck Klein, Mike Piazza, Eddie Mathews, Manny Ramirez, Ralph Kiner, Sammy Sosa, Jim Thome and Willie Stargell.

Then there were some players who made the list who you probably would be hard pressed to remember that they were that good for at least three years in a row:  Charlie Keller, Brian Giles, Chick Hafey, Dale Murphy, Dick Allen, Frank Howard, Larry Walker, Gavvy Cravath, Fred McGriff, Jack Fournier, Jim Rice, Joe Jackson, Joe Medwick, Ken Williams, Larry Doby, and Mo Vaughn.

According to the scrawling on this scorecard, if you had to place Jason Giambi (at this junction) into one of these three groups, he would belong in that latter group.  In fact, two of the players in that last group resemble Giambi quite a bit:  Frank Howard and Mo Vaughn.  Further, if you look up Jason Giambi today at Baseball-reference.com, you will see that Mo Vaughn is the batter most similar to Giambi through age 32.  Frank Howard, Mo Vaughn and Jason Giambi are the poster children for "big, lumbering, best position on the field is probably DH" types.  

Now, the bad news for Jason Giambi.  Howard and Vaughn were done when they hit age 35.  Their batting skills left them and the game discarded them.  Their last "effective" season was at age 34.  Jason Giambi will be 34 years old in 2005.

There's worse news for the New York Yankees.  Giambi, following this season, has five more years on his contract.  The money due Jason is as follows:

2005: $11 million
2006: $18 million
2007: $21 million
2008: $21 million
2009: Team option of $22 million or a $5 million buyout

Therefore, at the "best" the Yankees are on the hook for another $76 million due to Jason Giambi over the next 5 years - an average of $15.2 million per season.  That is a lot of coin to cast off into the river of mistakes - even for the deep pocket Yankees.

Granted, Giambi might make a great comeback from all that plagued him during the 2004 - and go on to star for another 4 or 5 years.  But, that's not the bet scrawled on this scorecard.  The feeling here is that the Yankees have made what may be the worst free agent signing in the history of major league baseball.  Some may think that the Orioles signing Albert Belle in 1999 was a mistake.  However, at least Baltimore offset that loss with some money kicked in via disability insurance.

On the bright side, if Giambi does become a huge bust, his signing will push the "Why did the Yankees trade Jay Buhner?" joke from the number one slot in the "Rank on the Yankees" gag queue.  Considering how old the Buhner line has become, maybe it is $76 million well spent after all?

Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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