Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Yankees sign a big-name free agent first baseman coming off an MVP-caliber year to a mammoth long-term deal that will keep him in the Bronx well past the point he’s still worth his salary. The slugger goes crazy in his first season in pinstripes, putting up yet another MVP-caliber season. The first baseman’s second season in pinstripes is still very good, though perhaps a slight disappointment based on previous expectations. Things continue to go in the wrong direction in the third season, prompting the Yankee faithful to start wondering whether their $100 million man is heading down an irreconcilable path to offensive mediocrity.
Obviously the two men in question are Mark Teixeira and Jason Giambi. In the latter’s case, his third season as a Yankee was an unmitigated disaster, due primarily to a year of health-related issues. However, many seem to forget that Giambi bounced back in a big way, turning in a huge 2005 campaign and ultimately finishing his seven-season Yankee career with a rather incredible .260/.404/.525 triple slash, .398 wOBA, 143 wRC+ and 21.8 fWAR.
Giambi often seems to be overlooked by Yankee fans, but he has a legitimate claim to being one of the most potent offensive weapons in Yankee history. Consider this: through Alex Rodriguez‘s first seven seasons as a Yankee (2004-2010), he put up the following line: .296/.393/.559, .407 wOBA, 151 wRC+. Giambi’s damn close to those numbers, and that includes his wretched 2004.
In the former’s case, unfortunately Tex’s third-year struggles can’t be chalked up to a series of insane injuries. Of course, his third year also wasn’t as bad as Giambi’s was.
Still, Giambi has a considerable edge even when isolating both players’ first three seasons as Yankees:
Tex: .266/.363/.514, .377 wOBA, 133 wRC+, 12.6 fWAR
Giambi: .269/.408/.528, .402 wOBA, 149 wRC+, 12.0 fWAR
What does any of this have to do with anything? I’m not really sure, other than to show that the Yankees’ previous big-ticket first baseman, who many considered finished following that woeful 2004, was far from done despite a disappointing third year as a Yankee.
I don’t think many think Tex is actually cooked or on an irreversible downward slide just yet, but the numbers clearly haven’t been all that encouraging, and the natives could begin to get restless if he begins next season in one of his patented April slumps. Before Giambi essentially resurrected his career and rewrote his Yankee legacy in 2005, you may recall that he was actually asked to accept an assignment to the minors in May of that season. Bottoming out at just .195/.386/.325 on May 9, the 34-year-old didn’t want to be sent down, claiming he could work his issues out with then-hitting coach Don Mattingly, and went on to hit an insane .288/.453/.582 over the remainder of the season. I doubt the 32-year-old version of Mark Teixeira will sink to those depths — or recover in such torrid fashion — but I use this point simply to illustrate that there is likely more left in Tex’s bat than it might otherwise seem.
Fortunately even if Tex is unable to get back to his previously high standards, he can make up for some of his missing offensive value with his glove, but he’d certainly calm a lot of nerves in Yankeeland if he could return to somewhere in the neighborhood of the .380-.400 wOBA player he was not too long ago.
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