Giambi's role: Leader and Clutch Masher
Giambi slugged .603 with 14 HRs last season.
Giambi slugged .603 with 14 HRs last season.
Publisher
Posted Feb 29, 2012


Jason Giambi isn't what he once was, but what 41-year-old is? At his age, that he can stay healthy, productive, and occupy an important role for a Major League club is every bit as impressive as his previous accolades. At his peak he was an absolute nightmare for pitchers. Now, he's still scary, but also very wise. 

Giambi isn't worried one bit about still being productive at his age. If anything, he's as confident as ever.

"I can hit a heater," he said. "As long as I keep myself in shape, I think with all of these years playing sometimes your skills diminish but hopefully I can make that up just being smart and getting myself into good counts where I'm able to sit on that fastball and let it fly." 

He was able to do that a lot last season as he hit 13 home runs in just 131 at-bats, good for a .603 slugging percentage. Most of that production came late in games as Giambi's role on the team is to take the majority of his at bats in clutch situations.

"What I look at, really, is just the closers on the other teams," Giambi said. "I know I'm facing those guys, anyway. I'm just going up there trying to make solid contact because usually I'm in a situation to tie the game or win the game. I just want to give us an opportunity in those spots."

In a way, Giambi is the Rockies offensive closer and he seems more than content with that at this point. He is hopeful that he does get to play more this season, though, as first basemen Todd Helton is also getting up there in age.

"I'm in the latter part of my career, I enjoy being here and playing the role that I have. Todd's getting older, so I get to play more first base and pinch hit so I'm having a lot of fun with it." 

"Todd and I get to manage the intrasquad games on Friday, so we get to have a fun time," Giambi said as he was writing down many lineups and flipping through the Rockies media guide for information. 

As his managerial debut awaits, Giambi has already been mentoring many of the Rockies younger players and passing down lots of information from a wealth of knowledge that he's gained in over 20 years in baseball. 

"This game is all about consistency and to me that means not working harder, but working smarter," he said. "You find the things that you need to do. I stay in great shape in the offseason. If I'm not swinging in the offseason, I'm working out or running doing the things I need to do. So, I always come into camp in shape so that if I ever need to take more swings I can do it."

Giambi says he doesn't take a lot of swings in the offseason and the reasoning behind why is fairly interesting.  

"I grew up around [Mark] McGwire and the one thing those guys would say is that maybe they'd cut back on the swings they take in the offseason just because some of them had back problems," he said. "I took that to heart because I really picked those guys brains when I was a young player trying to work on things."

Luckily, Giambi hasn't had back problems because he stays in such good shape. Upon mentioning this he added, "Knock on wood."

"Also, it gives you an opportunity in the spring to work on something. When I was younger and in the minor leagues, I would hit so much that when I got to Spring Training I'd be bored because my swing is already there and there's six weeks until the season starts. It didn't really give me that much to work on because I was mentally bored. Now, I don't take that many swings in the offseason and I come into Spring Training evaluating my swing everyday. Do I need more swings? Less swings? It's really worked for me very well."

This is a main point that he tells young players in the Rockies system before every offseason.

"I try to tell some of these young kids, you only get so many of these swings or so many throws in this game," Giambi said. "I mean, look at all these guys having arm surgeries. You need to be careful not to overdo anything. I know that baseball is just work, work, work, swing more, swing more, but at some point something is going to break." 

Giambi talked about his offseason workout camp in Las Vegas that he does every year with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and this year included young players like outfielder Dexter Fowler and others. 

"We had Nolan Arenado come in and we were just trying to help these guys out," he said. "Everyone says they work out, but what does that mean? There's kind of a science behind it and what you need to do and what you need to prepare your body for. I just wanted to help some of these young kids. I've been doing it a long time and I think I've been successful. They wanted to come down and I was honored. I think they learned a lot."

Giambi noted that his advice can only take these young players so far and that they have a lot to figure out for themselves. 

"You have to find out what works for you and that was pounded into me by McGwire and Carney Lansford," he said. "Here's what we do, here's the plate for dinner, but what do you put on it?" 

Giambi has given the Rockies youngsters a blueprint for success, it's on them to do with his advice what they will. 

Now, here are some additional quotes from Giambi on his Yankees career.

  • On his place in Yankees history: "It's definitely an honor to have an opportunity to put on the pinstripes. They've had so many fabulous first basemen that have come through there year after year starting with [Lou] Gehrig and the list goes on and on. To say that you're a part of that is an honor and I take it wholeheartedly." 
  • On the Yankees World Series victory in 2009: "I was excited for those guys. That just proves how hard it to win a world championship and that proves how incredible those teams were before I got there. You know, it was something special that they did. We got to a World Series and we were in the playoffs all the time, we just unfortunately ran into hot, hot teams from Anaheim to other teams. There was a streak that we had that a bunch of the teams that we lost to went on and won the World Series. So, it's not that we didn't get the opportunity, it's just that we got beat in the first round a few times." 
  • On baseball statistics: "That was the one thing about playing with the Yankees that they taught me very well. Stats are nice, trust me, but at the end of the day it's about winning the World Series and that's what you need to do. You can bring up stats all the time, but I can't tell you what Jeter hit or what Tino hit that year. All I know is they had great years and they won the World Series. It goes hand in hand, if you worry about winning today's game everyday then the stats will be there at the end of the year. I learned a lot of great lessons there and that's something that I try to pass down here to the young guys is that wins matter and your stats will come." 


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