A Touch of Destiny for Giambi
Ronnie Tellalian | On 26, Sep 2013
On Tuesday night Jason Giambi solidified his status as one of the fan favorites on the Cleveland Indians team. With the Tribe trailing the Chicago White Sox 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Giambi came to the plate with two outs and Michael Brantley on base. The mighty Giambi crushed a fly ball deep into the bullpen in right field for a walk-off home run, giving the Indians a 5-4 victory. The win kept them one game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the final wild card spot with just five games left to play. Giambi has had a long and storied career, but he was not always as beloved as he is here in Cleveland.
Giambi was a product of the Oakland Athletics. Back in the mid 1990’s to early 2000’s, General Manager Sandy Alderson, and later protégé Billy Beane, was stacking his team and his minor league system with power hitters that showed patience at the plate. The crown jewel of his collection was the hard hitting Giambi. In his first full season with the Athletics in 1996, the 25-year old Giambi hit 40 doubles, 20 home runs, and batted .291. He developed into one of the most feared hitters in the game. He was selected for five All-Star teams and finished in the top five in MVP voting for three consecutive seasons. His defining season came in 2000 when he won the AL MVP hitting 43 home runs, 137 RBI and batting .333. The next season he led the league with 47 doubles, hit 38 home runs, and batted a career high .342.
In 2002 Giambi left the Athletics to sign a seven year deal with the New York Yankees. The moment was immortalized in a book written by Michael Lewis called Moneyball. The Athletics set their minds on trying to replace the slugger while the Yankees enjoyed watching him send balls out of Yankee Stadium. He continued to awe fans and strike fear into opposing pitchers, but in 2003, his career would take a dark turn.
Late in the 2003 season, Giambi was named in the famous BALCO scandal as a player who received anabolic steroids from trainer Greg Anderson. The news broke in 2004, and Giambi’s reputation was tainted and his career was at a crossroads. He could have taken the road that so many other Major League players before him dad taken. Guys like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Roger Clemens, and others who denied vehemently the use of performance enhancing drugs and they were hated by fans and vilified by the media. Some of these players denied allegations even after proof of their deed was overwhelming.
He did not take that road however; he took the other road, the road less traveled. This is where the character of Jason Giambi shown through. In a press conference prior to the 2005 season, he admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. He admitted to media and fans to using steroids from 2001-2003, he apologized and urged other players who used to do the same. He showed the fans of Major League Baseball who he was, and he found his place again in their hearts.
In 2013 the Cleveland Indians decided to give the aging star a chance to play for the Tribe. Some thought the move was foolish, but Giambi was not deterred. New Manager Terry Francona sang his praises from day one, talking about the maturity and leadership of Jason Giambi. He is no long the hard hitting slugger with a swing that could shake a stadium, but he still has a little bit of magic in his old bones.
On July 29 of this year, Giambi became the oldest player in Major League history to hit a walk-off home run. He came on to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth against the White Sox Ramon Troncoso and blasted a home run to win the games. Then, on an even bigger stage, Giambi again was called upon to save the day. Pinch hitting again in the bottom of the ninth, Giambi faced White Sox pitcher Addison Reed with the Indians wildcard lead on the line. He came through when his team most needed him and shook the stadium with a walk-off home run. Fans that were once silent rose to their feet in celebration of an Indians victory, of Giambi’s victory. It seems a touch of destiny as an old star refuses to let the sun set on his career.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images