Oakland A’s history: Jason Giambi deserved 2001 AL MVP award

5 Sep 2001: Jason Giambi #16 of the Oakland Athetics bumps knuckles with a teammate during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at the Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Orioles 12-6.Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport
5 Sep 2001: Jason Giambi #16 of the Oakland Athetics bumps knuckles with a teammate during the game against the Baltimore Orioles at the Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Orioles 12-6.Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport /
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The 2001 American League MVP was handed to the impressive Ichiro Suzuki, but Oakland A’s first baseman Jason Giambi deserved the award more.

By any measure, Oakland A’s first baseman Jason Giambi had an incredible 2001 season. The defending AL MVP had an even better season that year, leading the league in doubles, walks, on base percentage, and slugging. He helped power the A’s to the 2001Wild Card, where the eventually fell to the Yankees in five games in the ALDS.

Overall that year, Giambi produced a .342/.477/.660 batting line, hitting 38 homers and 47 doubles. In his 671 plate appearances, he drew 127 walks while striking out just 83 times. He led the AL with a 9.2 bWAR that season, outpacing Bret Boone and Ivan Rodriguez for the crown.

And yet, Giambi finished second in the MVP balloting that year. He was edged out by Mariners’ sensation Ichiro Suzuki, the first Japanese position player in the majors. Ichiro was an artist with that bat that season, leading the league in batting average, hits, and steals while playing Gold Glove defense. That combination led to his getting eight more points in the voting process, narrowly costing Giambi consecutive MVP awards.

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Ichiro was also a player unlike any that had been seen to that point. He was serving base hits around the diamond like he was swinging a tennis racquet, legging out hits on routine ground balls to second. Every time he swung, it seemed as though he made contact. If there was a base open, he was stealing it.

It also helped that the Mariners had an incredible season of their own that year. The A’s won 102 games, but still finished a distant 14 games behind the amazing Mariners, who won a major league record 116 games that year. Of course, those wins did not matter, as they once again failed to reach the World Series.

While Ichiro may have passed the eye test and seemed to be a more valuable player overall, Giambi was actually better. Ichiro, for all of his excellence, posted a 7.7 bWAR, 1.5 points behind Giambi. Giambi finished second to Ichiro in batting average by eight points, but also had a much better on base percentage (Ichiro was not even in the top ten, finishing with a .381 OBP). They were two dramatically different players, but overall, Giambi was the better option that year.

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One has to wonder if Jason Giambi would have had a better Hall of Fame case had he won consecutive MVP awards. But that is just a ‘what if’ moment in Oakland A’s history.

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