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

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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.

Rob Manfred offers little insight, shows contempt for reporters in press conference

Rob Manfred
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke at a press conference, addressing the Astros cheating scandal and other topics on Sunday evening. It did not go well.

To start, the press conference was not broadcast officially on MLB’s own TV channel (it aired the 1988 movie Bull Durham instead), nor could any mention to it or link to the live stream be found anywhere on MLB.com. When the actual questions began, Manfred’s answers were circuitous or simply illogical given other comments he has made in the past. On more than one occasion, he showed contempt for reporters for doing their jobs — and, some might argue, doing his job — holding players and front office personnel accountable.

Last month, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal broke a story about the Astros’ “dark arts” and “Codebreaker” operation, based on a letter Manfred sent to then-GM Jeff Luhnow. Diamond was among the reporters present for Manfred’s press conference on Sunday. Per The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, Manfred addressed Diamond, saying, “You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part.” MLB’s response to the depth of the Astros’ cheating ways was lacking and, without Diamond’s reporting, we would have known how deeply lacking that response was. It is understandable that Manfred would be salty about it, since it exposed him as doing his job poorly, but it was an immature, unrestrained response from someone in charge of the entire league.

Onto the actual topic at hand, Manfred said he felt like the punishment doled out to the Astros was enough. Per Chris Cotillo, Manfred said Astros players “have been hurt by this” and will forever be questioned about their achievements in 2017 and ’18. Some players disagree. Former pitcher Phil Hughes even suggested the players have a work stoppage over this issue.

Manfred defended his decision not to vacate the Astros’ championship, saying, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.” The commissioner devaluing the meaning of a championship seems… not great? Counterintuitive, even? The “piece of metal” is literally called the Commissioner’s Trophy. Manfred went on to brag about the league having “the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.” Be careful, don’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back for doing the bare minimum.

Manfred said there was no evidence found that the Astros used buzzers and added that, since the players were given immunity, he doesn’t think they would continue to hide that when asked about it. He said, “I think in my own mind. It was hard for me to figure out why they would tell us, given that they were immune, why they would be truthful and admit they did the wrong thing and 17, admit they did the wrong thing and 18, and then lie about what was going on in 19.”

The commissioner expects the league to implement “really serious restrictions” on access to in-game video feeds for the 2020 season.

There has been some recent back-and-forth between the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Astros’ Carlos Correa. Manfred isn’t a fan of the sniping through the media. He said, “I’m sort of a civil discourse person. It must be because I’m old. But, yeah, I think that the back and forth that’s gone on is not healthy.” The reason Bellinger and others are speaking publicly about the issue, attempting to hold the Astros accountable, is because the league did not do a sufficient job doing that itself. Bellinger wouldn’t feel the need to speak up in defense of himself, his teammates, and other players affected by the cheating scheme if he felt like the league had his and his peers’ backs.

Because the players involved in the Astros’ cheating scheme weren’t punished, some — like Larry Bowa — have suggested intentionally throwing baseballs at Astros players to exact justice. Manfred met with managers who were in attendance today to inform them that retaliatory beanballs “will not be tolerated.” He added, “It’s dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.” Manfred has done nothing about beanball wars in the past, but it will now give the Astros somewhat of an advantage since pitchers will now be judged closely on any pitch that runs too far inside on Astro hitters.

Manfred also spoke about the ongoing feud with Minor League Baseball and basically reiterated what he and the rest of the league have disingenuously been saying since it was revealed MLB proposed cutting 42 minor league teams. Manfred’s talking point is that MLB is concerned about substandard facilities being used by minor league players, but not all of the 42 teams on the proposed chopping block have anything close to what could reasonably be considered substandard.

Lastly, Manfred was asked about the Orioles and tanking, and more or less danced around the issue by expressing confidence in the club’s ownership. The Orioles have won 47 and 54 games in the past two seasons. Payroll dropped by more than $50 million. The Orioles saw over 250,000 fewer fans in attendance in 2019 than in ’18. The O’s also saw a decline of over 460,000 fans in attendance from 2017 to ’18. But, yeah, it’s going well.

All in all, this press conference could not have gone worse for Manfred. The press found it condescending and the comments he made rang hollow to the players. Manfred seemed on edge and unprepared addressing arguably the biggest controversy baseball has faced since the steroid era. This is a dark time for the sport.