In Short Time, Giambi Has Etched His Name Into Tribe Lore
Craig Gifford | On 19, Sep 2014
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter announced his pending retirement before the start of this baseball season. This could also be the end of the line for one of his former teammates and fellow great player and current Cleveland Indian Jason Giambi.
Giambi, at 43, is the oldest player in Major League Baseball. Unlike Jeter, he is not a surefire Hall of Famer. He is a borderline player when it comes to future induction into Cooperstown. Giambi’s candidacy is marred more in the fact that he was caught up in the steroid scandal of a decade ago and admitted to using performance enhancing drugs for a couple seasons. That aside, Giambi has had a great career that may well be heading into its final week.
Of course, Giambi flirted with retirement each of the past two offseasons before the Indians threw him a line and reeled him back to the game. This season, however, has seen Giambi hampered with knee injuries as he has struggled through is worst big league campaign – his 20th in the Majors.
Giambi has yet to announce that he is leaving his playing days behind. However, the Tribe has enjoyed watching an influx of talented young players come up from Triple-A Columbus in recent months and there likely will no longer be room for a guy who can only play at designated hitter and only do it part time, at that.
If Giambi’s time with the Indians and the game is drawing to a close, he will be remembered for many things. He will also be remembered very differently locally as he will be on the much larger national scale.
On the national scale, Giambi will be remembered as one of the most feared hitters of the mid-to-late-90s and the first part of the 2000s. He will be thought of for his time in Oakland and with the Yankees when he helped lead good teams to the postseason fairly consistently. He won an MVP award wearing an Athletics uniform in 2000. He was selected to the All Star Game each season from 2000-2004.
It is in Oakland and New York where the Giambino carved out the majority of his potential Hall of Fame career. History will look at his time in Colorado and then in Cleveland as merely a blip. It will almost seem like football’s Tony Dorsett when he turned in his memorable Cowboys jersey for that of the Denver Broncos at the end of his Hall of Fame run. He looks odd in the blue and orange helmet.
As for Clevelanders, however, there will be nothing odd about seeing photos and videos of Giambi donning a Tribe jersey. His raw numbers will go down as some of the least memorable in the history of club, to be sure. However, in his two seasons with the Tribe, Giambi has delivered several monumental moments that will forever etch his name in Cleveland Indians lore.
Last season, Giambi delivered on the playing field. He batted only .183, but seemed to deliver in the clutch more than anyone. On July 29, 2013, Giambi became the oldest player ever to hit a walk-off home run. Almost two months later, he broke his own record on one of the more famous hits since the late-90s Tribe were delivering those on a seemingly nightly basis.
Last September 24, in what was a must-win game, former closer Chris Perez blew a save in the top of the ninth and the Tribe was down a run with one on and two out in the bottom of the frame. Tribe manager Terry Francona inserted Giambi to pinch hit, hoping for some home run magic. Giambi delivered in a huge way, with a walk-off tater. It was Cleveland’s fifth straight win of what would become a 10-game winning streak to end the regular season. The Indians needed all 10 victories to get themselves into the American League Wild Card game.
Giambi will go down in Indians history for moments on the field like those. He will also be remembered forever in Cleveland as the last guy to likely wear the No. 25. On the day Jim Thome‘s statue was unveiled at Progressive Field, in August, Giambi announced he would no longer wear the number in honor of Thome, who also wore 25 with the Indians. The number is not officially retired, but likely eventually will be when Thome, not connected to steroids in anyway, eventually enters the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Giambi capped Thome’s statue ceremony with the announcement that 25 would not be worn again.
Moments like these, both on and off the field, will make Giambi a fan-favorite of Tribe faithful for years to come. Even if he does enter the Hall with an A’s or Yankees cap on, he will be fondly though of for his time in Cleveland.
Now, Giambi is probably in his final days with Cleveland. He and Francona have had the chance they always dreamed of to be in the same dugout. If this indeed it, there could be no better way to go than for Giambi to deliver one last bomb for Tribe fans to stand up and cheer for. It would be even better if it won a game. Though, with the Indians needing every win possible to keep their dim playoff hopes alive, a second or third inning jack may be better for everyone’s nerves.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images