He was 39. We may now proceed to talk about him as if he were dead, rather than simply hanging up the cleats.
I'm writing a post about this for three reasons:
- This will close the book on the career of another player whose name always seemed to surface in Mariner trade rumors during the earlier part of the decade. Giles was there. Bobby Abreu was there. John Vander Wal was there. Marty Cordova was there. B.J. Surhoff was there. Alex Ochoa was there. Bobby Higginson was there. And Jeff Conine was there. Oh, God, Jeff Conine. You know where Jeff Conine was born? Tacoma, Washington. You know where that got him? Into every single Mariners trade rumor ever created between like 1999 and 2004. It didn't matter. There would be rumors about Juan Gonzalez that still brought us Jeff Conine somehow. Jeff Conine played first base, third base, left field, right field, and DH. He was happy to start, and he was happy to come off the bench. Jeff Conine was the solution to everything! You know what? Fuck Jeff Conine. I don't even care. I'm glad he's old.
- The Mariners played a Spring Training game and I want to ignore it
- For a while, there, Brian Giles was amazing. I'm not talking about his defense, I'm not talking about the rumors, and I'm not talking about his unusual personal conduct. Between 1999-2003, Giles collected 3242 plate appearances and hit .307/.426/.588 for a bunch of go-nowhere teams. He dropped off as he aged and entered his mid-30s, but Petco Park masked what remained a live bat almost up until the end. In terms of on-field performance, Brian Giles is a lot like Edgar Martinez, right down to the exceptional discipline and elite-level productivity without slugging a ton of home runs. He wasn't the same hitter, and he didn't last as long, but then he also didn't DH, and the overall similarities are clear.
For more than a decade, Brian Giles was an outstanding everyday outfielder. I wonder how many people realize that peak Brian Giles was a little better at the plate than peak Vladimir Guerrero. I don't know that pitchers and other teams were ever terrified of Giles the way they were and likely still are of Guerrero, but if they weren't, they should've been, because Giles did more than I can express almost completely outside of the spotlight.
I watched a lot of Brian Giles in San Diego. This was after his true peak had already come to a close. He was annoying, because his at bats took forever, he did some weird, unspeakable things in the clubhouse, and he was phenomenally uncomfortable to look at, with this golden hair that looked like he squeezed it out of a Play Doh Fun Factory. Later in his career we started to hear some really dark and ugly allegations of domestic abuse. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't like Brian Giles as a friend or a neighbor. But as far as Brian Giles the baseball player is concerned...Brian Giles was one hell of a player, and one of the few to remain underrated for the duration. He was a good one.