The straw that has stirred the drink for almost two decades

Jason Giambi has been one of baseball's most insightful personalities over a prodigious and still-going 19-year career.

Jason Giambi 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jason Giambi 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The past couple of years in Major League Baseball has seen a rise of many young former players getting as hired as managers with little-to-no experience.
Mike Matheny, age 43, was hired two years ago to manage the St. Louis Cardinals, and recently former Israel skipper Brad Ausmus, 44, was hired to lead the Detroit Tigers. These are just two of many such examples.
The Jerusalem Post spoke to current Cleveland Indians and potential one-day managerial candidate Jason Giambi about young managers being hired and other various topics.
Giambi was a slugger for the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees. He had a brief stop in Colorado and recently signed with Cleveland one a second one-year deal.
"This will be my 20th major league season" said Giambi, who is 42 years old.
"If my body can hold up I would love to play. But I just started a family; I have a two year old daughter and I have a son on the way so we¹ll see. But I really, really love playing the game." Giambi was drafted by the A¹s in the second round of the 1992 MLB entry draft. During his tenure with Oakland he played with his younger brother Jeremy for two seasons.
Giambi recalls that moment as "awesome, It was like little league, it was like going to the park everyday like a little leaguer, you get to ride with your brother, you can hang out." He played with the A's until he became a free agent in the year 2001, when he signed a then massive $120 million contract for seven years with the Yankees.
"That had always been a dream of mine to play for the Yankees. Mickey Mantle was one of my favorite players growing up. That was my dad¹s favorite player. So it was a dream come true." He wore the number 25 in New York "because [the two digits] added up to 7, which was Mantles number." Giambi enjoyed his seven years playing for the Yankees, and especially the clubhouse.
"The Yankees clubhouse is great," Giambi explained. "You're basically playing with 25 superstars." The Yankees went to a World Series in 2003 but lost to the Florida Marlins in six games. That was the closest Giambi ever got to winning a World Series. When asked if it still bothers him that he never won a World Series after winning an American League Most Valuable Player Award and two Silver Slugger awards, he notes, "I would have loved to win one but it just shows how hard it is to win a World SeriesŠ but that is one of the things that I still keep striving for and I got one more year, so hopefully this will be the year." After playing for the Rockies in 2012, he interviewed to be their manager in a surprise move around baseball.
Giambi did not get the job but he says of that time: "That was definitely a gift that was a blessing. I was so honored to even be mentioned because at that time in my career I didn¹t really know if I was going to play any longer.
"I didn¹t have a job at that time so when we interviewed, I actually learned so much about not only about myself but maybe what I wanted to do in this game later on in life.
"I think that¹s what made me even better today and that's what helps me out at Cleveland because it did make me think outside the box." That interview definitely helped him this past season as a crucial cog in the Indians clubhouse, not only as a player but more importantly as a role model.
"I tried to play a mentoring role, more or less try to help some of the young players get over the hump and try to become the next superstars of the game, and as well contribute. I still had the ability to contribute as a teammate, and still play that role that I can show the kids that I can still walk the walk." Giambi is definitely one of those veterans that helps younger players as a way of giving back.
"I've had a lot of ups and downs in my career, so I felt that the biggest gift that you can give back to this game is share what you have. I got so lucky when I first got to the big leagues, Mark McGwire took me under his wings and really taught me a lot about the game, so I really feel that is how you pass it along." When asked about performance enhancing drugs in baseball today Giambi was optimistic about the future.
"Baseball has done an incredible job of the testing policy, guys are going to make mistakes like you've seen, eventually they¹re going to catch up." Also this past year, Giambi finally got to play for one of his favorite people in baseball, Terry Francona.
"I¹ve known Tito since we worked in Double A together. So I¹ve known Tito, this will be my 20th year in the big leagues, so I¹ve known Tito for 22 years, played against him," Giambi reflected.
"I played against him in Double A when Michael Jordan played for Birmingham, where Tito was at in Double A. That's where I met him for the first time.
"I had a former high school teammate that played for Terry Francona, and all he did was rant and rave about how incredible he was. And not only as a person but as a manager. So when I met him in Double A we would laugh and joked around and we became really good friends.
"It took me 19 years in the big leagues to finally play for him but I¹m telling you what it was worth every moment. He is incredible. It¹s hard to even put into words. He¹s definitely a gift to this team." So why are all of these young managers getting hired with no experience? "Well I think a lot of these younger guys with little experience, they definitely bring a different aspect to the game," Giambi surmised. "The game has changed, the players are a little bit different then when I first got to the big leagues. A lot of the kids are younger now and with the money they signed for they are rushed to the big leagues now because some teams want to get these young players going and try to develop them a lot sooner.
"So I think they bring a different aspect of the game where the kind of yelling and screaming and the hard manager it doesn¹t work in today's game now. It's more philosophical and its more computer-generated now, where they've got all these stats now because of the computer age and the scouting is a lot different. They relate a lot more and I think that¹s why you've seen they are having a lot of success because these young kids could really relate to them." Of the Brad Ausmus hiring, Giambi said, "I think Brad's going to do an incredible job. When I played against Brad there was probably nobody strategically that knew the game better than Brad Ausmus because he was so good behind the plate as a catcher and guys really liked him and guys enjoyed pitching to him.
"I think he¹s going to bring a different aspect to the team and I think will do an incredible job." Giambi believes to be a good manager is more about "pure honesty" than anything else.
"The big leagues are not about developing players, it's about winning games.
So a lot of these young kids you need to be honest with them when they come up and you teach them to play the game hard," he elaborated.
"I think the biggest thing also is the confidence that you show in your players. Sticking with them because there is going to be a lot of ups and downs in the season but as long as you stay true to who you are and how you treat them I think that's how you get the best results out of them.
"You're the one that has to be level-headed through the whole season to keep guys on the right path, keep them going, keep their confidence going when they are struggling, because they are going to have ups and downs." This past year, the Indians were one of the two wild card teams to make the playoffs Giambi loves the idea of this second wild card team.
"I think it's the greatest thing that's happened." Too bad the Indians lost to the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild-card game, because the winner of that would have went to Boston to play the Red Sox.
Francona would have returned to the city where he won two World Series as a manager and Giambi, after playing with the Yankees for seven seasons, definitely had some good moments at Fenway.
"That would have been incredible, I would have loved to see that. That would have been fun." Well, there may be more time for that to yet happen. Giambi's tank as player seems to have a little more gas left, and even after he no longer wields his dangerous bat, it doesn¹t seem like he will be leaving the majors for a long time.