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Giles got late start, suffered early end

In the wake of the news that Brian Giles has officially retired, MLB Trade Rumors sums Giles' legacy:

    Though he's not a household name, Giles finishes with an excellent .291/.400/.502 line in 7,835 career plate appearances for the Indians, Pirates, and Padres. Giles' career OBP currently ranks 59th all-time. Giles made two All-Star appearances and received MVP votes in five seasons. He was involved in a blockbuster trade in August of '03, joining the Padres for Jason Bay, Oliver Perez, and Cory Stewart. According to Baseball Reference, Giles earned about $81MM in his career.

It's that last bit that reminds me I shouldn't feel too sorry for Brian Giles. He enjoyed a fine career and made a great deal of money.

Still, his career could have been even better (and more profitable) than it was.

When Giles was just 22, he tore up the Double-A Eastern League: .327/.409/.452.

The Indians promoted him to Triple-A Charlotte. So far, so good.

Giles did well in the International League, too: .313/.390/.479.

That's when things started to go a bit awry. For Giles, anyway.

With almost any other franchise, Giles would have opened the next season, 1995, with a job in the majors. But the Indians' outfield was absolutely stacked: Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez. Giles got into six games with the big club.

The Indians had the same outfield in 1996. Also, Eddie Murray was back as the Indians' DH. Murray didn't hit much in '96, but he'd hit well in '95 so management was patient. Giles got into 51 games.

It wasn't until 1997, after spending most of three seasons in Triple-A, that Giles finally got a real shot in Cleveland, Albert Belle having signed with the White Sox. But even then, and also in 1998, Giles was often benched against left-handed pitchers even though he'd never shown any particular weakness against them.

Finally, after the '98 season, the Indians made a particularly foolish trade -- based on the numbers, anyway -- sending Giles to the Pirates for relief pitcher Ricardo Rincon, straight up.

For the next seven seasons, first with Pittsburgh and then San Diego, Giles annually ranked among the National League's best hitters. It probably wouldn't be quite right to suggest that Giles would have become a Hall of Famer if the Indians had found a place for him earlier. But I'd like to have seen his numbers if he'd been more valued at the beginning, and healthier at the end.