Saturday, January 2, 2010
A's of the Decade: First Base – Jason Giambi
890 wins, 728 losses. Five playoff appearances. Three Rookies of the Year, two Most Valuable Player awards and one Cy Young winner. All in all, I can't complain about the last ten years of Oakland A's baseball.
It's easy to get hung up on the disappointments (four straight ALDS failures, free agent turnstiles out of town, Bobby Crosby) but, those slovenly squads from the early '00s are what brought me back to baseball after the A's spent most of the 1990s drafting Ariel Prieto and trading away/for Jose Canseco.
Yup…it's the obligatory "All-Decade" feature, y'all. But, with a twist. I went back and identified the primary starter at each position – including DH – for the past ten years. For pitchers, I took the top four in games started for each season and the respective leaders in saves. These are the guys who qualify.
My approach penalizes players who might've played a lot, but moved around the diamond without a defined position. Since Eric Byrnes – the pharaoh of false hustle – is probably the Oakland Athletic most affected by this rule, I think we can all agree that it's a good rule.
First Base – Jason Giambi
Years: 1995-2001, 2009
Summary: Unless I'm forgetting someone obvious, I can't remember any baseball team – top to bottom, all 25 guys – who so embodied the spirit of one of their players like those early 2000s Oakland A's. Giambi brought the A's back to relevance (and the playoffs) with an MVP season in 2000 (1.123 OPSteroids) and he should've won it again in 2001 (1.137 OPS).
Favorite A's Moment: On August 12, 2001, Giambi's two-out, two-run walk-off home run beat the New York Yankees 4-2. It was the A's 11th consecutive victory and the game was played in front of more than 47,000 fans in Oakland. As Giambi was mobbed by his delirious teammates, a television camera focused on a fan's sign in the stands: "Sorry, George [Steinbrenner]: Giambi CAN'T be bought!" HA!
Runner-Up: Scott Hatteberg (2002 – 2005)
Worst of the Decade: Jason Giambi ('09 version)