Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'd risk it

The prospect of Giambi spending most of his time at first base may make Yankees' fans cringe, but if I'm Joe Girardi, I have to try it before going with Ensberg, Duncan, or Betemit. Sure, there are some out there who will argue that Giambi's inevitable errors may shake the snowflake-like confidence of petrified youngsters Joba, Ian, and Phil, but I'm guessing the utter lack of offense from a power position may shake them more.

And yes, I realize that this article is heavy on the "best shape of my life" stuff, but that may be trumped by the fact that, for all practical purposes, Giambi is in a contract year. He's motivated to play some first base to maximize the potential offers next year, so I am inclined to believe him when he talks about his workouts and commitment.

Worst case: he is an utter failure at first and he goes back to being a full time DH. Best case: did I mention the lack of Duncan/Ensberg/Betemit at-bats?


Brian said...

I'm one of those cringing Yankee fans, so I want to put that out there. Here's a rebuttal. The Yankees gave a significant number of 1B at bats last year to a combination of Doug Mientkiewicz, Andy Phillips, Miguel Cairo, and Josh Phelps and still managed to easily lead the league in runs scored. The Yankees can take a little offensive hit at 1B if the guy can pick it.

I don't usually subscribe to that philosophy really, but Giambi is an atrocious first baseman.

Osmodious said...

The Yankees *need* a good fielding first baseman, period. They have been much better over the past 15 years when they have someone playing there who can actually catch the gives Jeter and the others the opportunity to stretch for the 'impossible' plays, because any throw that is around the area of 1st will be scooped up.

And I don't care what kind of shape he is in, Giambi can only be *so* good in the field (he did actually get better the past couple of years, but still a ways to go). Personally, I'm a little disappointed that Dougie isn't back, but that's the way things go. I think Ensberg might be a similar type of guy (clubhouse, great fielder, content with a support role, etc.), while adding a potential power bat.

Of course, if we had never traded Nick Johnson, we'd definitely have both the fielding and the bat as well as youth (and he wouldn't have broken his leg making a desperate play for a losing team on a substandard field).

My favorite solution: bring back Tino!

Justin Zeth said...

The thing is, none of the other 1B candidates is any great shakes with the glove, either. Better than Jason Giambi, certainly, but there are no gold gloves in the future of any of those guys, not even at first base.

That said, I'm not convinced that Morgan Ensberg at 1B and Giambi at DH isn't a better idea than Giambi at 1B and Johnny Damon at DH. Ensberg's only two years removed from posting an OBP-heavy 120 OPS+. It makes sense to me to use Ensberg and see him prove he doesn't have anything left before I relegate him to strictly pinch hitting.

I'm guessing this is more about the fact that Melky Cabrera is the regular in CF now, and the need to keep Johnny Damon from bitching and moaning about not playing. Giambi goes to first, Damon can DH.

Damon's a useful fourth outfielder, but if he refuses to be that, the Yankees are best served eating his contract and trading him off, really.

Brian said...


Damon isn't the issue here. If he comes to camp in shape, and reports are that he has, than he should be fine. Once he played himself into shape, he had a very good second half (ops+ 117) which was in line with his three previous seasons. Damon plays a pretty good LF, and to be honest, the Yankees are better off with him out there than with Matsui. Giambi DHing will more than likely cut into Matusi's at bats then Damon's.

Justin Zeth said...

Then tell me, why not simply play Damon at first base?

Brian said...

Well...he's not a first baseman.

If you're going to try and throw whoever you can at 1B, you'd be better off trying Matsui there. Damon is a better defensive OF than Matsui, so he should be playing LF.

Justin zeth said...

I'll answer my own question: Because Damon doesn't hit enough to play first base, even if he bounces back (and thus, doesn't hit enough to play DH, either). That's why I'd be inclined to at least try Ensberg first.

As for Matsui, well, I think it's established by now he's resisting being moved to first, to say the least. I could get on board with Matsui at first, Damon in left and Giambi at DH, but Matsui wants no part of it.

Osmodious said...

The thing about Damon is that he is a great lead-off hitter. Not the prototypical 1st baseman, I suppose, but still good to have in a lineup. Melky does a good job at leadoff, too, but even I am forced to admit that Damon is just a great lead-off guy.

I agree that he is also a better left fielder than Matsui. Actually, I think he is a better left fielder than he was a center fielder (in his prime), and Yankee Stadium is not the easiest left field to play. Still not sure why they invested so much in Matsui, and for 3 years, but whatever.

If I was going to make a 'sacrifice' here, I would cut Giambi. He's dead weight we've been carrying for too long, just because he 'might' become the power hitter he once was. Actually, I would have done it 2 years ago, but oh well. I'd also try to trade Damon, though I'd prefer to move Matsui (who is unmoveable, so no dice there). The Twins need outfield help (not to mention a level headed veteran presence), and if we eat a decent amount of the contract I bet a deal could be made.

Marcel said...

I'd argue that Damon certainly does hit enough to be a first baseman.
2007 Avg 1B .287/.366/.498
Damon's Career Avg .288/.353./.433

Other than the slugging, that's right in line with what you would expect out of a 1B. Plus he's a much better baserunner than your average first baseman. I also don't see how he could be considered an adequate LF, but not an adequate 1B, when they're both considered power positions. Bottom line, when three of your infielders are A-Rod, Jeter, and Cano, you can afford slightly less offense at some other positions.

Osmodious said...

Marcel...can't speak for anyone else, but when I was talking about Damon in LF, I was concentrating on his fielding. I agree with you about the power hitter thing, though...I've been complaining about this for years: the Yankees weird need to have a power hitter at every single position. How about getting a couple of guys on base to knock in? Think about some of the teams they've lost to over the past 8 years...lots of 'small-ball' and moving baserunners type of play.

Eh, whatever. The bottom line is that we are stuck with a bunch of really old, really expensive guys who have not really performed all that well the past few years. I mean, if not for 'the kids' and Jeter and Posada (who were both fantastic all season long), last year would have been a debacle.