Yankees: Revisiting NYY Signing Jason Giambi at His Peak

Adam Weinrib
Newly acquired New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi concentrates on a ball (Photo Credit: PETER MUHLY/AFP via Getty Images)
Newly acquired New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi concentrates on a ball (Photo Credit: PETER MUHLY/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Jason Giambi arrived to the New York Yankees following the 2001 season, amid much fanfare.

The Jason Giambi signing is basically the textbook definition of why the haters swarmed around the New York Yankees in the early aughts.

Coming off their first World Series loss in five tries — in Game 7, no less — New York struck once again, importing the best bat available on the free agent market to replace Tino Martinez. The rest of the baseball world cried foul. The Yankees just smiled and watched Jason Giambi shave.

At his first press conference after agreeing to a seven-year, $120 million deal in Dec. 2001, Giambi was clearly emotional, and humbled by the pinstripes. “This is my best fit. This was the team I was hoping would come after me,” said Giambi, who ESPN claims “briefly choked up at the podium.”

His first season in the uniform, 2002, started like gangbusters. Giambi slugged .340/.449/.717 in May, with 10 homers and 24 RBI, and logged his first “signature Yankee moment” by crushing a walk-off grand slam in extra innings in the rain against the Twins on May 17.

In 2002, Giambi made the All-Star Game in Milwaukee, battled Sammy Sosa in the Home Run Derby, and finished fifth in the MVP race. Unfortunately, the Yankees bowed out in the ALDS, and that ended up being the big man’s personal high mark in New York.

The next season, his average dipped to .250, though he posted a remarkable .412 OBP and slugged 41 more bombs. The optics were undeniably worse, though — he struck out 140 times to lead the AL, by far a career high at the time.

Though he didn’t hit above .250 in any playoff round en route to the World Series, his two home runs in Game 7 of the ALCS set the stage for an iconic comeback against Pedro Martinez (and Grady Little).

And yes, he’d also homered in Game 6 the day prior.

For all intents and purposes, that season was the end of Giambi’s time as a monstrous impact player — felled by a strange parasite in 2004, he missed 62 games and hit .208 (though he was still selected for the All-Star Game, his final one as a Yankee). He didn’t play during the team’s ignominious postseason collapse against Boston, one of the many reasons for their downfall. John Olerud and Tony Clark just weren’t the same as prime Giambi.

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Though he remained a cult hero through 2008 in New York, the Yankees only got a brief taste of the Giambino at his best. Those 2002 and 2003 seasons were exemplary, and we only wish the trend line had continued.

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