King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Jason Giambi should stay with the Yankees for the good of the game. Plus: ESPN loves -- LOVES! -- the NBA all-defensive team.


Salon Staff
May 13, 2005 11:00PM (UTC)

There seems to be widespread agreement that Jason Giambi, the Yankees' desiccated former slugger, should accept an assignment to the minor leagues for the good of himself and the team.

Giambi, trying to save his big-league career despite Pony League numbers in this first season after the leak of his admission to a grand jury that he took steroids, has made it clear he thinks staying in New York will give him the best chance to get himself together.

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The Yankees can't send Giambi down without his approval, so in pinstripes he stays. He's even expected to start Friday night in Oakland, site of most of his triumphs with the A's, for whom he won the 2001 American League MVP.

I'm with Giambi, but not because I think he's going to get himself together in the Bronx. He's 34 and, even putting aside the steroid business, he's of a body type, bulky and unathletic, that has a history of being washed up in baseball around that age.

Look at the list of players most similar to Giambi on his Baseball Reference page. It's dominated by guys who looked more or less like Giambi -- Mo Vaughn, Danny Tartabull, Ted Kluszewski, Wally Berger -- and who were done, or at least medium-well, by 35.

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I think Giambi should fight demotion to the minors for the good of baseball.

The finances of Giambi's situation are kind of complicated and we don't have to get into them, but one result of his accepting a trip to the farm would be the Yankees saving about $37,000 in luxury taxes for every day he spends off the big-league roster.

It's been hilarious reading the New York papers this week, by the way, as columnists urge Giambi to think of the team and accept his demotion. The luxury tax savings are always mentioned, as though $37,000 a day even showed up on the Yankees' radar.

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The Yankees' player payroll, just that expense, is over $1 million a day. The Yankees lose $37,000 a day between the sofa cushions. They spend that much on hair gel for Alex Rodriguez's locker.

But by sending Giambi to Columbus the Yankees would keep that $37,000 from the luxury tax fund, which goes toward player benefits, the industry growth fund and player development in countries that don't have organized high school baseball. Luxury taxes do good for society! Can we say the same of the Yankees?

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Another bonus: Having Giambi on the roster means the Yanks get no production from one of their position players, which is good for competitive balance, something baseball is always going on about.

New York has won five straight games -- those arguing that Giambi is ruining the Yankees' championship hopes would like you to ignore that -- but is still six and a half games out of first, where the Baltimore Orioles reside. The Orioles last won a division title in 1997.

But Giambi staying with the big club and continuing to fail might do something that luxury taxes, revenue sharing and general badgering and mewling by commissioner Bud Selig have all failed to do: convince the Yankees to stop throwing the huge piles of money only they seem willing to admit they have at questionable players.

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I don't think the Yankees overpaying for guys like Giambi and Kevin Brown is as big a problem for baseball as the owners do. All of their grumbling about competitive balance and controlling payroll really comes down to: We have to stop the Yankees, though in the last couple of years the Red Sox have moved into the Yankees' spending neighborhood.

I think we're seeing this year -- unless that five-game win streak is a harbinger of things to come -- that the Yankees' free-spending ways are something of a self-correcting system after all. It's true the Yanks can afford to throw huge contracts around in a way that other teams can't. They don't have to pay for their contract blunders the way, say, the Pirates have spent years paying for Jason Kendall's deal.

But the bill does come due eventually. You keep signing aging warhorses, or one-year wonders like Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright, inked this offseason, and sooner or later you're going to find yourself in fourth place with a mediocre roster and, if the Yanks' unwillingness to go after Carlos Beltran this winter was a sign, little flexibility to go get more help.

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This is good not because it's good for baseball for the Yankees to be in fourth place. I actually think it's good for baseball for the Yankees to be in first place, then lose in the postseason. That's happened each of the last four years and business is booming.

But it would be good for baseball if the commissioner and the other owners, just for a few months, would stop their incessant complaining about the Yankees, and how New York makes it impossible for anyone else to compete.

The Yankees make it hard for everyone else to compete. It's impossible for some teams to compete not because of the Yankees but because of incompetent management. The Yankees aren't bad for baseball. Baseball's years-long P.R. campaign trumpeting the mostly fictional unfairness of the landscape and hopelessness in most cities -- ratcheted down since the last labor agreement but still in force -- is bad for baseball.

Here's another possible scenario for Giambi: He really does recover his stroke. That would serve as proof that his success didn't come out of a syringe, which would be even better for baseball.

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Giambi does nobody any good in Columbus, except maybe Alex Rodriguez's hair gel guy.

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All-overexposed defensive team [PERMALINK]

Here's the NBA's all-defensive team, announced Thursday: Ben Wallace, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Bruce Bowen and Larry Hughes. The second team is Marcus Camby, Tayshaun Prince, Andrei Kirilenko, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd and Dwyane Wade.

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How do I know this? From memory, because I watched the two playoff games on ESPN Thursday night, and ESPN would not stop talking about it. Every time Duncan, Bowen, Hughes or Wade was involved in a defensive play, and many times when they were not, the all-defensive team was brought up.

I heard the NBA all-defensive team mentioned more times in five hours Thursday night than I'd heard it mentioned in the previous 41 years and 10 months.

Am I missing something? Does anyone care about the NBA all-defensive team? Do Duncan, Bowen, Hughes and Wade even care about it? A whole week of playoffs has gone by since ESPN last did a game, and all anybody can talk about is the all-defensive team.

ESPN actually does a decent job with NBA games on the nights when it isn't yammering incessantly about the all-defensive team, and if you can stand Brent Musberger, which I can't.

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But ESPN's games are just sort of a pale version of the wonderful job TNT does. The studio show is similar but dull, the announcers aren't as sharp and there's a little more of a tendency to indulge in bad "creative" camera angles, though ESPN is nowhere near as bad as the histrionics of ABC on that score.

ESPN has two more games Friday night, then ABC carries games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, and then -- mercifully -- the playoffs return to TNT Sunday night. Enjoy it while you can. The Finals will be on ABC.

Previous column: NBA whiners

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