The early 2000’s saw a left-handed power hitter who was leading the unsuspecting Oakland A’s to wins, playoff appearances, and crushing home runs with long hair that almost gave Randy Johnson a run for his money. Jason Giambi was the 2000 MVP and used his success in Oakland to land a then common large contract with the New York Yankees. After playing his prime in the Big Apple, Giambi seemed to be on the decline as he re-signed with the Athletics in 2009 and the Colorado Rockies in 2010. However, he has found a role on a Cleveland Indians team this year as a seasoned veteran who has been able to make contributions despite being over the hill at 40+ years of age.
I wasn’t particularly a fan of Jason Giambi when he was coming up. He had a bad boy image, but was hard pressed for coverage playing in Oakland. He was obviously a good player. Giambi just didn’t fit my picture as a team player, as did most of the players last decade who ended up signing large free agent contracts with the Yankees after their contracts had expired with their previous teams.
Jason Giambi was a force to be reckoned with despite my personal feelings. He routinely was hitting over 30 and even 40 home runs a year and had an impressive .476 on-base percentage the year he was named AL MVP. His presence was felt night in and night out, although he wasn’t able to help Oakland ever make it past the divisional round of the playoffs. Whether in search of a championship ring or a larger paycheck or both, he left Oakland for the New York Yankees following the 2001 season.
His time in New York was both good and bad, depending on your view of believing he was and is clean or not. Giambi was named numerous times in the BALCO scandal and was a common name in juicing during the infamous steroid era of baseball. I had the fortune of being at the Yankees game in 2005 when Giambi hit his 300th career home run. Seeing a milestone like that in person is amazing, even though I am not a Yankees fan nor was Jason Giambi someone I followed back then. He came out for a curtain call and that is something I will never forget.
After Giambi wasn’t resigned by the Yankees after 2009, I was actually glad to see him back in Oakland. Although he was a completely different player than before, seeing players on their original teams is rare these days and I was hoping it turned out better than what it did.
The Rockies were the next team to sign Giambi. It seemed like a completely pinch hitter hole being that Colorado had Todd Helton at first base and no designated hitter in the lineup to place Jason Giambi. He had his moments, a few SportsCenter highlights over the years, but it was clear that he was nearing the end of his career in baseball. It is admiring at the fact that he continued to play and did not seem affected by the steroid accusations. He didn’t run and hide and kept playing baseball. This is what made me begin to see Giambi in a different light and somewhat cheer for him when he was playing.
This year the Cleveland Indians brought Giambi into Spring Training and gave him a chance to make another Major League roster. At 42, the odds seemed against him as he is a power hitter who mainly had made his career by being a clean-up style hitter. He may not be hitting 40 home runs a year anymore, but Jason Giambi has established himself as a veteran leader and team leader who has found a role in Cleveland. He became the oldest player to hit a walk-off home run and is an asset in the right place at the right time. Many teams would not want to bring in a player of Giambi’s caliber and history, but another small market team is a perfect place for Giambi where he has thrived as a designated hitter and pinch hitter.
Jason Giambi may not be on Cleveland’s roster after this year, and he is more than likely going to have to prove himself in Spring Training season after season to continue making Major League rosters from here on out. He has a slim chance to make the Hall of Fame based on his stats and steroid accusations, but for what it’s worth, Giambi has made a fan out of me.