Saturday, March 13, 2010

Brain Giles Hangs 'Em Up

Brian Giles attended Granite Hills High School in his native El Cajun, California, and was drafted out of high school by the Cleveland Indians in the 17th round of the 1989 draft.

In the lower minors, Giles showed not much power, but had a knack for getting on base. In 1993, he hit .327 for AA Canton-Akron, and was moved up the ladder. His career took off at AAA Charlotte.

He batted .313 for Charlotte in 1994 and made the International League All-Star team. In 1995, Giles hit .310 for AAA Buffalo and got a September call-up to the Tribe. He was also an American Association All-Star.

Giles hit .355 in 51 games for the Indians in 1996 and hit .314 in 83 games with Buffalo, again making the American Association All-Star team. He also matured physically and developed a bit of a power stroke, hitting 51 long balls on the farm over those three seasons,

In 1997, Giles established himself as a major league regular, playing 130 games for the Indians and 112 games in 1998. He hit .268 and .269 with 33 homers and 127 RBI those two seasons, getting 727 at-bats as the Indians spare outfielder.

On November 18, 1998, he was traded to the Pirates for pitcher Ricardo Rincón. The Indians were concerned with the here and now, and Cam Bonifay had the lefty they wanted. As Mike Lange would say, after that deal, Cam was smilin' like a butcher's dog.

With the Pirates, Giles emerged as a middle-of-the-lineup outfielder who hit for average with great plate discipline. In 1999, he began a streak of four straight 30-homer seasons, never hitting lower than .298, and was named Pittsburgh Pirates Player of the Year from 1999-2002.

His debut season saw him put together a line of .315/.418/.614, with 39 homers, 115 RBI, and 109 runs. Giles walked 95 times and struck out 80. And he got better.

Giles led the 2000 club in doubles (37), triples (7), home runs (35), RBIs (123) and walks (114) while batting .315. He was eight RBI shy of Paul Waner's 1927 club record of 131. Giles became the first Bucco ever to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in back-to-back seasons.

His 114 walks were the most by a Pirate since 1992. Giles' 74 home runs in two seasons with club were the most in back-to-back seasons since Willie Stargell hit 77 in 1972-73. He was selected as a NL Player-of-the-Week and was co-winner one more time. Giles was named to All-Star squad.

In 2001 Giles established career highs in games played (160), at bats (576), runs (116) and hits (178). He tied career highs in doubles and triples. At the end of the season, Giles ranked tenth among NL players in runs, on-base percentage (.404, oddly enough his lowest as a Pirate) and slugging percentage (.590). He led the Pirates in batting (.309), home runs (37) and walks (90).

He tied Dave Parker's club record for most total bases (340) by a left-handed hitter. Giles hit his 100th career home run as a member of the Pirates on August 9, becoming one of seventeen players to homer 100 times as a Pirate. He was selected to play in the All- Star Game again.

He continued putting up monster numbers in 2002, though he hit a Pirate-era low of .298. Giles ranked second in the league in walks with 135. His .450 on-base percentage tied him for the second-best mark in the majors. Giles ranked second in the NL with a slugging percentage of .622, sixth in home runs with 38, second with 80 extra-base hits, tied for second in the league with 13 outfield assists and finished third in the senior circuit with 24 intentional walks. And he didn't make the All-Star team!

But he was in the second year of a five-year deal and did make $8,063,003. And we all know what that meant during in the Dave Littlefield era (and today, of course).

On August 26, 2003, he was traded to the San Diego Padres for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Corey Stewart. And ya know what? It was a pretty sweet deal, unquestionably Littlefield's best.

Bay took over left field and the middle of the order nicely, Perez filled a rotation spot for awhile, and when it was time to turn them over, the Pirates ultimately ended up with Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, and Andy LaRoche, along with a bagful of trinkets.

Giles went on to have a couple of good seasons with the Padres, but his power disappeared and his knee turned arthritic. He got one more good contract, had miscrosurgery, and tried to catch on this year as a bench player for the Dodgers, but for naught. He retired before the Turk came calling.

During his career he played for the Indians, Pirates and Padres. He was a two-time All-Star, got MVP votes five times, and had a career line of .291/.400/.502 with 287 home runs, 411 doubles, 1,078 RBIs, and 1,183 walks in 1,847 games.

But it was as a Pirate that he shined. In 715 games, he had a line of .308/.426/.591, with an OPS of 1.170 - he was over 1.000 three of his four plus years in Pittsburgh - and added 165 homers, 506 RBI, and 501 runs scored.

Giles wasn't one of the more beloved Pirates; he wasn't great at PR, is currently involved in a nasty lawsuit with an old gal pal, and he and Jason Kendall led an old school frat-house locker room of card-players that loved hazing rookies, especially those with a little spunk, the best example being young Jack Wilson.

But when it came time to show up between the lines, he did. And to this day, he's the cream of the Pirate crop to play after the Bobby Bonds/Jim Leyland era closed.


WilliamJPellas said...

Giles did, indeed, have a very good career. Not Cooperstown, but very good. And he was as you describe him, Ron: both the Pirates' best player and the biggest jerk of his era.

Ron Ieraci said...

Ah, he and Kendall were a pair, all right. And I think you're right about Young; Crosby gives them a flexible bench glove, and DY has a stick that Vazquez can only dream about.

Remember during the off-season when we wondered why Vazquez was getting a free ride? Apparently, the Pirates are finally overlooking the first two million reasons, lol!

Not really a very good signing, but at least an affordable mistake, especially with this year's payroll.