By the Decade: Tino and the Giambino

Johnny Damon overplayed his hand
Open Thread: Yankees All-Decade Team

Our Yankees by the Decade series continues today with a look at first base. After talking about the decade of Derek yesterday and Jorge’s time behind the dish on Wednesday. Today, we have an actual debate.

For this one, because the Yankees used 42 players at least once at first base, I limited our analysis to the guys who played at least 10 games at first over the decade. At some point or another, the Yankees decided to give these players somewhat regular playing time. It’s quite the list.


For the Yankees, finding a suitable first basemen took up a lot of resources in the 2000s. The 1980s belonged to Donnie Baseball, and the 1990s were split between a fading Mattingly and Tino Martinez. As the 2000s rolled around, Tino’s days in the Bronx were numbered. He hit an admirable .280/.329/.501 with 34 dingers and 113 RBI in 2001, but heading into his age 34 season, Tino was given his walking papers.

The Yankees turned their attention to the big fish that off-season: Jason Giambi. Coming off of some stellar years for the Oakland A’s, the Yankees desperately wanted to add Giambi’s bat to the lineup. For seven years and $120 million, they did just that. After hitting .330/.458/.617 over his final three years in the A’s, Giambi would be playing on the world’s biggest stage.

At first, he struggled in the Bronx. He didn’t homer until the Yanks’ ninth game of 2002 and didn’t appear to be the feared hitter the Yanks thought they were getting. That is, until the flood gates opened on May 17, 2002. That night, Giambi blasted a walk-off Grand Slam in the 12th inning as the Yanks downed the Twins 13-12. The Giambino had arrived. He would end the year with a .314/.435/.598 with 41 home runs and 122 RBI.

For Giambi, though, 2002 would represent his peak in the Bronx. The power would begin to tail off in 2003, and although the batting eye would remain stellar, Giambi began to break down. He missed half of 2004 with a variety of injuries and much of 2007 as well. He found himself in the eye of the steroid hurricane and could not escape controversy. He rebounded nicely in 2008, but with Mark Teixeira looming, Giambi was gone.

So is Jason Giambi then the first baseman of the decade? Offensively, he makes a strong case for himself. As a first baseman only — not as a DH — he hit .280/.420/.567 with 129 home runs in 28.44 percent of the Yanks’ first base ABs. Tino, who made a Bronx return in 2005, came in second in team first base ABs but hit just .262/.325/.452 and blasted just 64 home runs.

Yet, the Yankees spent much of the decade trying to find someone who could actually play defense at first. The team learned early on that Giambi was ill-equipped to handle the glove. He wasn’t confident in his throws and generally had poor range. His cumulative UZR at first during his Yankee years was a -18.8. Only once in his Yankee career did he play more than 92 games at first and that was in 2008 when the Yanks had no better options. From 2004-2007, he played just 204 of the Yanks’ 648 games in the field. He was, in other words, a very highly paid designated hitter who could be stuck at first base when need me.

To that end, the Yanks tried just about everything. They used Nick Johnson for much of 2003 at first and brought back Tino in 2005. They tried the all-glove Doug Mientkiewicz; they begged Andy Phillips to do anything with the bat at the big league level; and they even gave Miguel Cairo enough chances to accrue nearly 100 ABs as a first baseman. The situation was that dire.

As we sit here in 2009, we’re on the precipice of the decade of Mark Teixeira. Already third on the list of Yankee first baseman of the ’00s by plate appearances, Mark’s contract ensures that his glove and bat will occupy first base for much of the 2010s. It will be a stark contrast with the ’00s, a decade that belongs to Giambi’s bat but not his glove and one that saw many players try to man first with varying degrees of success.

Johnny Damon overplayed his hand
Open Thread: Yankees All-Decade Team
  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

    My first thought from reading the chart:

    Tex has basically halved virtually all of Tino’s counting stats… in a third of the ABs.

    Great googily moogily.


    My second thought:

    About half of the guys on this list have either already played with the Dodgers or are about to play for the Dodgers in the next year or two.

  • pat

    I know Tino was slick with the glove and had his fare share of post season heroics but, .260/.320/.452… is pretty meh.

    • radnom

      Yeah but that is only the 2000’s, during his decline years.

      • radnom

        *Including his age 37 season with them in 2005.

        • pat

          Yeah, that’s very true. Still so he was only .271/.344/.471 for his career. Without looking them up I would have guessed he hit much better than that. By all accounts he was a good player but it’s funny what a few postseason homeruns can do to a guy’s legacy. I would have sworn he was a .300/.400/.500 guy.

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            Tino, 1996-1999 (ages 28-31):
            .283/.358/.502 (120+)

            Tino, 2000-2005 (ages 32-37; includes his three years in STL/TBA):
            .265/.339/.450 (105+)

            • pat

              Yea that’s the Tino I remember. Luckily for us his 4 greatest years came while we were gettin our Dynasty on.

      • Esteban

        ’96-2001 .279/.348/.488. That’s pretty decent but not great.

  • radnom

    This is the first one that didn’t have one player completely dominate playing time and provide 95% of the production. I’m surprised how close Martinez came in at bats to Giambi over the decade, but I guess Jason did miss a lot of time in the middle of his contract.

  • Jai

    “and blasted just 64 home runs.” lol

  • AndrewYF

    A .420 OBP for Giambi this decade: wow.

  • A.D.

    they even gave Miguel Cairo enough chances to accrue nearly 100 ABs as a first baseman.

    Very dark days.

    • Rob

      His name was Torre.

  • SamVa

    … look at Nick.. small sample size but he obviously enjoys first.

    • Steve H

      And he’s a terrible OF, I know this because I saw him screw up two plays in one week. They’d be better with Tex in the OF and Swish at 1B.


      • jsbrendog

        what did you use stats? use hadystat cause thats what dumb people do, they use stats


  • ultimate913

    I’m not sure exactly, but I think Teixeira’s stats on the chart are wrong. I believe he had 39 home runs and 122 rbi’s. Or could it be that he hit 2 of those homers and got 7 of those rbi’s as a DH?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      Asked and answered.

      152 games at first, 5 at DH.

  • dkidd

    giambi took a lot of shit for his defense, but that slugging % is outrageous

    the fact that jeter was so supportive during the leaked testimony debacle tells me he was a good teammate

    • dkidd

      “he” being giambi

      • http://thebronxbloggers.wordpress Will

        did anyone ever doubt he was a good teammate? he always seems like a standup guy, on and off the field.

        • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          (The link attached to your name is messed up, BTW.)

          • Will

            Oh crap. Thanks for letting me know. I just started my own blog a few days ago so I can rant. lol.

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  • Sam

    Giambi’s numbers in OAK are RIDICULOUS. Jeez. It’s not like I’ve forgotten those years, but they’re starting to just get lumped into the Steroid Era Haze in my head. Good gravy, though.

  • Riddering

    I can’t get over the ridiculous numbers Teixeira has after one season at 1B, especially the ABs, when you see him behind Tino and Giambi.

    But the true tragedy here is that we didn’t give Ransom more of a chance to be our first baseman. .417/.500/.883 = dominance.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

      Also: No scorching fliner to right would ever have gotten over his head with that amazing vertical.

      • Riddering

        NYS would have given up 18% less homers this year with Random at first.

  • X

    ron coomer.. lol

  • Salty Buggah

    Best Yankees 1st Basemen of the Decade by OPS:

    Cody Ransom (1.383 OPS)
    Nick Swisher (1.135 OPS)
    Jason Giambi (.987 OPS)
    Juan Miranda (.965 OPS)
    Mark Teixeira (.947 OPS)

    *Sample size is ignored

    I can’t believe freakin’ Cash let Ransom go to another team! He was also on the top 5 Shortstops of decade list!

    • Drew

      Stick that in your pipe Nomaas!

    • ROBTEN

      Like Caine in “Kung Fu,” Cody Ransom is forced to walk the earth, remaining just below the radar while using his vertical leaping abilities to help teams less fortunate. The moment that his secret identity is revealed, he must move on. Cash knew this from the beginning, but accepted it as the price that one must pay for signing Ransom.

  • Ganzi

    Tex is a future HOF. His signing was a no brainer

  • AJ Burnett’s Chin Music ensemble

    the games totsl for each would be nice to see as well…Ron Coomer…oh how we forget…

  • Accent Shallow

    Hey, Richie Sexson wasn’t as terrible as I remember.

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