Open Thread: Jason Giambi

(G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)

Just nine of the 31 nine-figure contracts in baseball history have run their course and been completed, and one of those nine belongs to former Yankees Jason Giambi. The Giambino signed with New York ten years ago today, receiving a seven-year contract worth a cool $120M. Tino Martinez was ushered out of town, and the Yankees brought in a former MVP and arguably the best hitter in the game.

Giambi’s first year in pinstripes was pretty much everything we could have hoped for; he hit .314/.435/.598 with 41 homers and accumulated 7.0 fWAR and 7.3 bWAR. The only three position players to put up a seven-win season with the Yankees over the last 25 years are Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Giambi. He dropped to still productive .250/.412/.527 with another 41 homers the next year, but then the injuries and the steroid stuff started to come into focus. Over the final five years of his contract, Giambi hit .247/.392/.496 with another 127 homers, but he was a butcher on defense and struggled whenever he played DH.

Everyone remembers Aaron Boone’s walk-off homer in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, but Giambi set the stage twice by homering off Pedro Martinez earlier in the game. The Big G was a .279/.409/.510 hitter in the postseason with New York, though he came to town too late to be part of the dynasty and left too early to be part of the 2009 World Championship team. He hit .260/.404/.521 during his seven years with the Yankees, which is pretty damn impressive. Some people out there really don’t like the Giambi because of the steroids and all that, but he was a fun dude and absolutely mashed, even in his down years. He’ll always be a personal fave.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. The late NFL game is the Raven at the Chargers (8:20pm ET on NBC), but you can talk about anything you want here. You know what to do, so have at it.

Report: Yankees are “not getting” Yu Darvish

Via Marc Carig, the Yankees are “not getting” right-hander Yu Darvish according to a person close to the situation. The team’s last second bid will not be higher than those submitted by the Rangers and Blue Jays, the presumed favorites. Backing up an earlier report, Carig’s source says the winning bid is a “ridiculous number.”

Once all this Darvish stuff becomes official on Tuesday, the Yankees will likely turn their attention to short-term fixes. Yesterday’s Mat Latos trade shows that the price for a young, high-end starter is still sky high, which makes someone like Hiroki Kuroda a much more likely target. The pitching search will almost certainly stretch out into January, just because the hot stove tends to die down around the holidays.

On Joy and the Expectation to Win

In some ways, the Knicks and Yankees are very much alike. Both franchises have long been run by families that believe you have to spend to win, and have attacked the free agent and trade markets with zeal. Both have therefore been subjected to various luxury tax and revenue sharing plans that are aimed at their ability to spend at a much higher level than other clubs. Finally, both play in recently built or refurbished spaces that allow them to charge their fans exorbitant fees to enjoy the gameday experience.

However, when it comes to the most important elements, these two franchises could not be more dissimilar. The Knicks were, for a very long time, the worst run franchise in the NBA and possibly all of sports. The GM tenures of Scott Layden and Isaiah Thomas were riddled with terrible trades for aging and overrated stars, long term contracts given to injury risks, poor drafting, scandals, and worst of all, interminable losing. The Knicks were a punchline for over a decade, so much so that many Knick fans have been wary to jump back on board now that the team seems headed in the right direction.

Conversely, much like DJ Kahled and Tim Tebow,  all the Yankees do is win. Over the last 13 years, the Yankees have been run shrewdly by Brian Cashman, and with a major assist from the Steinbrenner wallet have continued to build the legacy of the winningest franchise in sports. They have numerous marketable stars and fan favorites, and have also added a solid farm system to provide the franchise with exciting young talent. They have long provided a striking contrast to the Knicks, throwing the Dolans’ failures into stark relief.

This contrast also manifests itself in how fans react and relate to the two clubs. One thing that constant winning does is breed the expectation of success from fans. We no longer hope that the Yankees can contend, but expect it, and we have not experienced an expectation-free season since 1996. We get a bit confused and upset when the Yankees claim they want to cut payroll, as they have set a certain standard and we fear that they may no longer be able to meet it. This kind of attitude lends a certain tension to each season, as high expectations also leads to a greater fear of failure. I know I am not the only one who feels a modicum of relief mingled with the joy I experience when the Yankees clinch a playoff spot or win a playoff series.

Conversely, the Knicks enter the upcoming season with a different sort of expectation. They finally put the club in the capable hands of Donnie Walsh, and he has handed things off to Glenn Grunwald, who also seems to know what he is doing. The team finally looks ready to contend, but it is hard to tell at this point whether we can expect a deep playoff run or whether they are built to win one round and then bow out. When they lost in last year’s first round, most Knicks fans shrugged it off and looked excitedly to the future. There is a great level of mystery to their upcoming season, and any success will likely be met with the pure, unbridled joy reserved for a team and a franchise that has long suffered as a laughingstock and a perennial loser.

That sense of pure joy is somewhat missing from Yankee fandom. With frequent winning comes a greater fear of failure, and that greater fear of failure will by nature cause some measure of relief to be part of the emotions we feel when the club comes out on top. There is nothing we can do about it, and I would definitely rather have the frequent winning rather than that emotion in the long run. But I look with a bit of jealousy at my 12-year old self and wish there was some way I could recapture that joy I felt in 1996.

Report: Winning bid for Darvish is larger than Dice-K’s

Via Franz Lids, the high bid for Yu Darvish is larger than the $51.1M the Red Sox paid for the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka five years ago. We still don’t know who placed that bid, but late last week we heard that the Blue Jays submitted a bit worth upwards of $50M.

Instant Analysis: Holy cow, assuming this report is true. I figured Dice-K’s general mediocrity would scare teams off of a bid that large, but like we always say, it only takes one team to blow everyone out of the water. Pretty crazy. Apparently the Nippon Ham Fighters are going to take the full four business days before announcing they’ve accepted the high bid, so one way or another we’ll know who won the right to negotiate with Darvish by the end of the Tuesday.

Open Thread: Rondell White

(Photo credit: Osamu Honda/AP)

The Yankees had a revolving door in left field during their late-90’s dynasty, with guys like Chad Curtis, Shane Spencer, Ricky Ledee, Gerald Williams, Tim Raines, and even Chuck Knoblauch seeing a bunch of time out there. In an effort to plug that hole after the 2001 season, they signed Rondell White to a two-year contract worth $10M, a deal that became official ten years ago today.

White, 29 at the time, had hit .307/.371/.529 for the Cubs in 2001 and .310/.366/.508 with the Cubs and Expos over the previous three seasons. He could definitely hit and the defensive metrics considered him about average, but the problem was that the guy never stayed healthy. Up to that point, White had played in more than 138 games just once in his career, and more than 97 games just thrice in seven full seasons as a big leaguer.

Sure enough, White got hurt in Spring Training in 2002 and struggled at the start of the seasons, save for a binge week in which he hit four homers in the span of nine mid-April games. He was hitting .225/.286/.392 on May 1st, but he rebounded to have a nice little 50-game run from mid-May through late-June (.308/.343/.438) before getting hurt again. White finished the season with a .240/.288/.378 batting line in 126 games, then he hit a solo homer in Game One of the ALDS against the Angels, the only postseason game he’d play in for the Yankees.

White was widely reported to be a strong presence in the clubhouse, but the Yankees signed Hideki Matsui after the 2002 season and were stuck with a log jam in the outfield. They showcased White in Spring Training, then traded him to the Padres late in March for Bubba Trammell and pitching prospect Mark Phillips, the ninth overall pick in the 2000 draft. ”The key component in this deal, for us, is Mark Phillips,” said Brian Cashman after the trade, though his team did save close to $3M in the trade. Joe reviewed the trade last winter, and I also suggest reading Tyler Kepner’s recap from back in the day, which is pretty interesting in hindsight.

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Here is tonight’s open thread. There’s a bunch of college everything on, plus all three hockey locals are in action. Talks about anything you like here, it’s all fair game.