To explain, in my late teens and early twenties, when much of the Interwebs were just a fledgling network of randomly updated news blasts, I inadvertently would stumble across various message boards where I would get my fix discussing and arguing baseball. I always loved the game, but blogs weren’t a huge thing back then and I was even less credible than I am now. It was in these message boards, cesspools of crude grammar and often vile thoughts, where I was first introduced to advanced metrics, finally giving me the weapons I needed to advance my mind further.
I love advanced statistics, I love learning about them and I love the insight they’ve given me into this game I love. But my growth wasn’t over (despite me stupidly thinking it was). There were two players central to getting me to where I am today in my mentality towards the game, and one won’t be playing in 2015 and the other isn’t likely to play.
Adam Dunn was one of them, a burly chunk of power who made me rethink everything about what I valued in a baseball player, but the other had been a member of our Cleveland Indians for the past two years. I’ve never met Jason Giambi personally, but few baseball players have altered my thinking like he did.
And that’s not necessarily to say I was ever a “fan” of Giambi playing in Cleveland. Particularly during the 2013 season, I was quite vocally confused and opposed to his place on the roster. If you look at his numbers, you’ll probably wonder what the heck the Indians were thinking having him on the roster the entire season, let alone bringing him back for 2014. Fangraphs had Giambi’s 2013 season at -0.5 WAR, which is awful, a slashline of .183/.282/.371, and his only redeeming number, nine home runs in 216 plate appearances.
But Giambi taught me that every once in a while, the numbers don’t mean anything.
Admittedly, it was a bit of a random moment in my life, and maybe Giambi just got lucky when he hammered Addison Reed‘s pitch in the ninth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 24, 2013. But it was then where I (so begrudgingly) began to entertain the thought that there are possible areas where you simply can’t quantify what a player brings to the team. It still infuriates me, as I feel the need to quantify most things in my life, but I must admit Giambi and a stupid tweet were turning points in my “baseball maturity,” and almost certainly led me down the path to writing for EHC.
— Ed (@EdTheRevelator) September 25, 2013
The #veteranpresents hashtag wasn’t started by me, (it was likely ESPN’s Keith Law regarding Garret Anderson and former Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager Joe Torre‘s penchant for overplaying the outfielder) but I admit to loving it. The gist of the notion of “Veteran Presents” is that too often MLB clubs heap praise on the “veteran presence” of a guy on the team. I’m not in the clubhouse, so sometimes it’s possible an older vet can influence younger players, or help introduce them to better ways of doing things. Like, hammering walk-off dingers:
So, #veteranpresents hashtag was snark, but oddly, Giambi had another “gift” for me besides the walk-off. You could probably do mental gymnastics and come to a scenario where the 2013 Cleveland Indians make the playoffs without Jason Giambi on the team, but as it happened, those (too brief) playoffs don’t happen without Big G.
At first, I found this insanely hard to reconcile — few people enjoy being dead wrong. But rather than be bitter and salty over it, I decided to get sweet. Allowing Jason Giambi to change my thinking about baseball helped me grow as both a person and a writer. Whereas before, I clung to the stats, afraid to stand alone without them, I now try to focus more of my writing into interpreting the numbers, not seeing them as some sort of prophecy. I never feared the numbers, but now I fear the quantifiable a tad less. Being wrong might have been the best thing in the world for me.
Giambi is likely not playing on the Indians in 2015. The team seemed to have made up their minds on that a long time ago, and going off of the numbers, it’s hard to argue with the choice. Giambi was markedly worse in 2014 than in 2013, at least in terms of production. He was used mostly as a roster shill, going on and off the disabled list as the team needed a roster spot, all while hanging around the clubhouse and being manager Terry Francona‘s right-hand man. The Indians have offered Giambi a non-playing role in the organization, and while it would likely be a great addition to an already stellar coaching staff, part of me hopes Giambi moves on to another MLB city.
And the reason for wanting Giambi to move on is simple: Giambi helped me expand my mind and accept that some things cannot be measured. It’s not tangible, but that’s a gift. It’s been wonderfully liberating and helped me write some of my better work, to the point where I’m almost afraid to ever use the #veteranpresents hashtag again. And I want everyone to have the experience of being wrong, and how amazing it feels to both admit it and grow from it.
When Jim invited me to write for EHC, I was thrilled at the offer, both because I was flattered and because I’ve been enjoying EHC for a few months now as a reader. After some initial logistical concern, I was all too happy to share my thoughts with another site (FWIW, I’m still very much around over at Wahoo’s on First). But I’m not certain I would be writing here, or even anywhere, if it wasn’t for the lessons — the gift, if I need to keep this metaphor up — that Jason Giambi unknowingly taught me while he was on the Cleveland Indians.
Best of luck with whatever you do, Big G, and I do still owe ya a beer for that home run.
***EHC Note: We are pleased to have Ed along for the ride as a columnist here at Everybody Hates Cleveland, in whatever capacity we can have him. Ed has always been an amazing contributer at Wahoo’s on First, as well as Twitter, and we’re lucky to have him here at EHC as well! Check out Ed’s work at Wahoo’s RIGHT HERE, and make sure you check out for more of his stuff here at EHC…and who knows, maybe even a pod or two. Welcome aboard Ed, glad to have you.