On Comebacks

The Yankees return home today after what we have to believe is an encouraging 11-game road trip against 2 division leaders and the slugging Rangers. They left on this grueling exercise with exactly two starting pitchers in the fold, and returned with 6 victories, including 3 against the Sox, and a brief stop in first place—we hope they will return to that position soon. Save for a few blown games at the tale end of the trip it could have been even better. Tomorrow the Twinkies arrive for yet another important series (think Wild Card), and then the Angels, and an opportunity for a bit of revenge. As for those Angels, they look good but hardly unbeatable. In an offensive league, they’re a pitching-and-defense team. So far the formula has worked. (Special props to uberutility man Chone Figgins).

Meanwhile, we feel compelled to comment on the amazing resurgence of Jason Giambi. We didn’t think he could do it. We’re glad for him (we wish no player ill) and especially for the Yankees that he has. That doesn’t mean we’ve become big Giambi fans, however. And we do note that it is only thanks to his (ill-gotten) monster contract that he was allowed the time to straigten out. This is a curious fact that has gone unremarked, but it’s the kind of thing that has prevented young Yankee players from rising and must also tick off a vet like Bernie Williams. The only thing that kept Giambi in the lineup on anything like a regular (even occassional) basis during the first half was his contract. For better or worse, no other player gets that kind of opportunity. On the Yankees, the formula has always been, produce immediately or you’re gone. The younger the player, the shorter the window. That’s why we’ve seen so many flashes-in-the-pan over the years (Kevin Maas comes immediately to mind) and one of the reasons the Yankee middle relief is such a shambles today. So in this context, the Giambi extended rehab project is an especially interesting one for the Yankees to consider.

38 comments… add one
  • Re Giambi: certainly it’s occurred to you that it’s at least a little bit possible that, rather than “straightening out”, he’s back on the juice? His SLG was .315 in May; in July it’s more than three times higher, 1.017. That’s insane. The new steroid policy is far from loophole-free, and he may have felt he had nothing to lose…

    Earl July 25, 2005, 12:07 pm
  • Earl: That’s a bit cynical even for this native NYer. It’s hard to imagine him returning to a program that so jeopardized his health, and his old Balco pals are no longer in business. Of course it’s possible he’s back on the juice, but policy on this site is going to have to be innocent until proven guilty. And there is a steroid testing policy in place, however flawed.

    YF July 25, 2005, 12:14 pm
  • Sure it’s cynical, but after being lied to a number of times by a number of users, why not be cynical? And it’s hard to imagine Giambi cares about the health effects — it’s not like they were just discovered recently.
    I absolutely believe in “innocent until proven guilty” in a court of law, but I see nothing wrong with speculation at this point. If that’s our standard for when we can discussing it, we shouldn’t ever have discussed it: nothing’s been proven at all.

    Earl July 25, 2005, 12:45 pm
  • I am sure that Giambi is one of the first people they would target to test. I doubt he is back using steroids – I honestly don’t think he would be that stupid to jeopardize his career and health again…. I just think he is finding his way back after it taking a few years for him to get healthy again.

    yankeegirl July 25, 2005, 1:12 pm
  • I don’t think Giambi is on the juice because if he is caught he could void his contract, that is why he only admitted to using steriods in a closed court and never publicly. He would get his guaranteed contract if he never hit above .200 ever again. Why risk losing all that money?
    My only complaint with Giambi is that he should have gotten his sh*t together in triple A. But I am happy to see him playing well. You can’t deny that he has been working his butt off. His defense has even improved. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him run harder around the bases either, that first to third on the single to left last night was awesome.
    I hear David Ortiz is now suspected of steriod use.
    Relax Sox fans, I am just speculating. We can speculate can’t we? After all, he never hit like that for the Twinkies. He seems to have gained some weight too, especially around his head.

    Battingly July 25, 2005, 2:10 pm
  • The big issue with Giambi is not whether he’s using steroids again, but if he isn’t (which he can’t be, since I can’t fathom a human being acting that abjectly stupid) and he’s found his stroke and it’s as full of power as it looks why in God’s name did he ever use them in the first place?

    SF July 25, 2005, 2:14 pm
  • but if he isn’t (which he can’t be, since I can’t fathom a human being acting that abjectly stupid) and he’s found his stroke and it’s as full of power as it looks why in God’s name did he ever use them in the first place?
    So he’s not stupid enough to use steroids again, but he once was stupid enough to use steroids when he didn’t need to? So which is it: is he really stupid or not?
    And Battingly — if you’re trying to make a point about bias towards/against certain teams, you failed. If Ortiz is indeed on the juice (for which there’s far less evidence than any of the BALCO boys) he deserves the same treatment as any other juicer. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

    Earl July 25, 2005, 2:20 pm
  • I am having a hard time believing that Giambi, who had health problems that may have been directly attributable to steroid use, is using again. The idea that someone would initially use steroids but consider their deleterious health effects an acceptable risk is one thing. For a person to actually suffer health problems from steroid use and then use them again is what I would consider abjectly stupid. For some reason I am willing to give Giambi the benefit of the doubt on this one.
    As for my real question, it is about the possible lesson in all this: if one can produce home runs, ribbies, and average without doing steroids, then why do them? It’s hindsight, for sure, but still an interesting question to me.

    SF July 25, 2005, 2:46 pm
  • SF: He started using them as a kid, when he was a skinny singles hitter. The power was a later development. How would he have developed without them? The question as to the actual efficacy of steroids is one that has been debated ad nauseum by the medically-inclined sabermetics group (see Will Carroll and Steve Goldman on this). We’re not touching it.
    As for his defensive “improvement,” I think we need to take this now-standard mantra of team YES with a grain of salt. He may catch the balls that come at him, but he’s obviously not a mobile player, and he’s not a great relay man.

    YF July 25, 2005, 2:48 pm
  • Thinking further, SF’s comment illustrates exactly the problem I eluded to in my initial post. As a young player, Giambi was a singles hitter. Would a singles-hitting first baseman have advanced to and stuck at the ML level? Who knows. But he didn’t risk that problem. He juiced, developed power, got the huge contract, and then when the problems came the money was so large that it was impossible to do anything with him but let him play. He is the illustration of how the steroid incentive can destort the game.

    YF July 25, 2005, 2:58 pm
  • YF: can you tell me when he started using? Was it when he was a rookie? Two years in? Four years in to his major league career? Your “story” of Giambi’s usage is completely uninformed. That’s not an insult, but who besides Giambi (and maybe Victor Conte) can tell us when he started using?
    The guy was a 20-79-.291 guy his second year in the majors, hardly a “skinny singles hitter”.

    SF July 25, 2005, 3:18 pm
  • We don’t really disagree then. There’s no question he’s working really hard, and I too am giving him the benefit of the doubt; my point is just that it’s not outside the realm of possibility. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where a player (a struggling ex-user who has had steroid-related health problems ) is approached by a trainer saying there’s this brand new drug out, which the IOC hasn’t even heard of yet (much less come up with a test for) and which has no known side effects. If the player isn’t too bright, and there’s millions of dollars at stake…
    It’s also worth mentioning that the arguments put forth for why he won’t go back to steroids all make a big assumption: that he’s a rational actor. We’re talking about drug use, and the potential for making millions of dollars, two things which tend to cause people to act irrationally. So I’m skeptical of any arguments that “he would be stupid to go back to using steroids”.
    Anyway, I know this all sounds really cynical, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who felt I had been ridiculously naive before the leak of the grand jury testimony. I really hope we haven’t returned to that level of naivete in such a short time.

    Earl July 25, 2005, 3:22 pm
  • Just because Giambi didn’t hit for power when he was drafted (I don’t know that this is the case, but hypothetically) doesn’t mean that he won’t ever hit for power. Many players develop power as they go along and get older in their careers, YF.
    As to whether or not Giambi is juicing again, well, we’ll only know if they catch him. Other than that I’ll assume that he isn’t the biggest idiot the world has ever known (though he is undeniably a big idiot) and is in fact clean.

    mattymatty July 25, 2005, 3:24 pm
  • Also, YF: I want to apologize for pretty much single-handedly diverting this thread into a discussion of steroids. Your original point (about Giambi’s unique position because of his huge contract, particularly among a quick-release team like the Yankees) is a really good one, and is probably far more interesting than any discussion of ‘roids.

    Earl July 25, 2005, 3:25 pm
  • Would a singles-hitting first baseman have advanced to and stuck at the ML level?
    YF, meet Kevin Millar.

    SF July 25, 2005, 3:26 pm
  • YF, meet Kevin Millar.
    Well done. (Though technically Giambi and Millar both started out as 3B/1B/OF; maybe their perceived versatility (ha!) gave them an extra boost in the minors.)

    Earl July 25, 2005, 3:33 pm
  • SF. I’m sorry, but the point is not uninformed. It’s been pretty well reported that as a juco player and then into the minors Giambi was not a power hitter. That’s simply fact. You can go look up the records if you want, but I think the defense can rest on that assertion.
    And therein lies the point. We DO NOT KNOW whether he would or would not have had the opportunity to develop power without roids. Obviously he and many other players feel or have felt they had to take the risk. Michael Lewis’s terrific recent piece in the NYT about Mark Teahen (a clean player, but a singles hitter whose forward “progress” has been seriously retarded by lack of power production at a power position) showed just how serious a problem this has become.

    YF July 25, 2005, 3:47 pm
  • And therein lies the point. We DO NOT KNOW whether he would or would not have had the opportunity to develop power without roids.
    YF admits he knows nothing. Happily, I will agree. End of argument. ;-)

    SF July 25, 2005, 4:35 pm
  • Why would players use steroids? Maybe because they saw what it did for hundreds of NFL players, Mark McGwire and Bobby Bonds?
    Would we be talking about Bobby Bonds as perhaps the greatest hitter ever if he hadn’t taken steroids?
    And in the beginning, the upside was a lot more obvious than the downside. They were not, after all, illegal, even in baseball.

    john massengale July 25, 2005, 4:52 pm
  • What about the rumor that Schilling took steroids?

    john massengale July 25, 2005, 4:53 pm
  • I like the fact that Giambi gets blamed for his monster contract! Why did The Boss and The Cashman offer him such a big deal? I’m sure there was informed talk of him using steriods when they signed him. The Yanks are least 50% responsible for the fact that they couldn’t do anything BUT play him because of his contract.
    I think the issue of being stuck wtih a big contract and having to play through the bad times is an interesting one, but hardly unique to Giambi – look at Junior, Thome, Eric Milton and even Bernie the past couple of years.
    I say Kudos to Giambi. I had given up on him earlier in the year and, like SF, cannot believe that he would be dumb enough to resort to steriods. Hopefully he can give the Yankes a few years of excellent production. Maybe the ‘roids helped add 10-15 HRs a year for him, or kept him off the DL, but he’s always been a classy hitter with a great eye.

    Sam July 25, 2005, 4:58 pm
  • PS – would it be so wrong for the Yanks to stick with Bubba Crosby? Surely what they need to focus on to keep the momentum going right now is a little bullpen help. You can’t rely exclusively on Sturze, Gordon and Mo for the next three months.

    Sam July 25, 2005, 5:00 pm
  • Bernie’s agent (Boras?) said yesterday that Bernie wants to play after this season and that there are plenty of teams that want him.

    john yf July 25, 2005, 5:12 pm
  • //Bernie’s agent (Boras?) said yesterday that Bernie wants to play after this season and that there are plenty of teams that want him.//
    Delusional much?
    Bernie should retire before he embarasses himself any further. He’s had a great career…any smart man in his position would choose to exit while still on a relative high note.

    Sox Fan in VT July 25, 2005, 6:08 pm
  • That’s what Dan Duquette said about Roger Clemens.

    john yf July 25, 2005, 6:48 pm
  • No, Duquette did not say anything like that. He didn’t say Clemens should retire.
    Try not to make stuff up, please.

    SF July 25, 2005, 7:12 pm
  • Giambi cheated once and forever some people will think any success he has is based on cheating. Perhaps, it’s unfair but it’s a natural consequence of what happened. We all have to live with the consequences of our actions.
    Personally, I agree with SF and think it’s highly unlikely he’d be dumb enough to risk juicing again.
    About Bernie retiring. I hope Bernie quits after this season,too, but I think it’s an entirely understandable feeling for him to want to stay on, to play the game he loves, and to try to prove that he’s still capable. It’s a bit harsh implying that he’s dumb for wanting to continue his career.

    Nick July 25, 2005, 7:15 pm
  • SF,
    If we deleted the stuff you made up, this site would be half empty. Take your last comment…
    From Duquette’s own site:

    The Duke is quite well aware that he will never be able to distance himself from his oft-quoted observation that Clemens was in “the twilight of his career” after Clemens left Boston at the end of the 1996 season. That was, of course, three (soon, perhaps, to be four) Cy Youngs, 136 wins, and two rings ago.
    “I think I motivated Roger, don’t you?” he inquires. “I think I did him a service.”

    We won’t even talk about what the did with the Yankees. Eight years after he left the Sox, he went 18 and 4. This year he’s only 8 and 4 so far, but he’s got a 1.40 era. With twilights like that …

    john yf July 25, 2005, 7:56 pm
  • John: I am not going to get in a war over this. You said that Duquette stated that Clemens should retire, paraphrasing SF(VT) and his thoughts on Bernie. Duquette said nothing of the sort, and you quoted him saying nothing of the sort.

    SF July 25, 2005, 8:40 pm
  • Whaddayatalkin SF – “war”? One can easily look at what SF in vermont said and Duquette’s comment that Clemens was in his “twilight” and remark on a similar acuity.
    Maybe Duquette meant “highlight” and Sox Fan in VT “rehire” — like “the Yanks should rehire Bernie.”
    And what about those Schilling on steroid rumors?

    john yf July 25, 2005, 8:59 pm
  • What about those John-yf steroid rumors? I hear those are just as credible as the Schilling ones.

    Brad-SF July 25, 2005, 11:11 pm
  • FWIW, I (along with every other sox fan in the world) would love to have Bernie back in NY for another year, especially if he’s going to play a little CF every now and then.
    The difference between Bernie and The Rocket is that Bernie is not going to be able to switch leagues to face less capable hitters making himself look better. If he wants to stay, it’s probably going to be as a DH, which doesn’t intimidate many people any more. If he goes to the NL he actually has to field, so that’s unlikely as well.
    However, if the Yanks want to bring him back for another go-round, I’m in love with the idea.

    Brad-SF July 26, 2005, 2:48 am
  • Giambi might use steroids if he had nothing to lose. However, unless I am completely off-base, a suspension for getting caught would cost him money, not to mention up to a full year suspension (3rd offense?), and maybe the Yankees could file legal action and void his contract? Also it would completely discredit his entire career. Maybe he is just working with a personal trainer and Donnie Baseball.
    Bernie has been a great Yankee. He has been clutch, he has the record for most post-season HR’s, and he will always be remembered. He has gotten old quick, so fast in fact that maybe it is sneaking up on him. I hope he retires as a Yankee. If he wants to play next year, the Yankees should try to accomodate, but no way should he be the CF. I love Bernie, but we all get old, and sometimes we may have to retire before we want to, just ask Donnie Baseball.

    Battingly July 26, 2005, 9:00 am
  • SF – You obviously haven’t seen my power and physique. Wonder what Dirt Dog will say about Schilling today? It takes a long time to recover from steroids.
    Considering Bernie’s shoulders and knees, I’d understand if he wanted to retire, and we’re going to the last home game of the season, in case he does. But if he wants to play, he’s a big boy, and I’m not his mommy. Maybe he knows something we don’t.
    It would be strange to see him in another uniform, and I expect he would be more like Pettite than Clemens. But if Pettite wants to keep on trying, that’s his business.

    john massengale July 26, 2005, 9:20 am
  • Just to be clear, it was BRAD-SF who mentioned the John-YF steroid rumors, not me. I know nothing of JYF’s inveterate juicing, other than a potentially related incident in which he was arrested in a Bronx hotel with a former member of the Astros and two women of the night. No charges were ever filed, as far as I know, and the issue died a quiet death.

    SF July 26, 2005, 11:29 am
  • Stop making things up. I was at THOR.
    And Mrs. Damon was NOT one of the two!

    john massengale July 26, 2005, 12:06 pm
  • Mrs. Benson?

    SF July 26, 2005, 12:08 pm
  • Just as long as it wasn’t Tawny Kitaen, JYF. That chick’ll kick your ass sideways quicker than you can say “Chuck Finley screwball.” Talk about NOT needing ‘roids to find your power stroke (Tawny, not Chuck, who according to Tawny, was a boozer, a pothead, and on the juice)…

    Spidey July 27, 2005, 8:25 pm

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