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.
Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.
Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.
The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:
As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.
That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:
Best work on that, guys.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.
Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.
Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).
Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.
Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.