In 2000, I got myself a Jason Giambi rookie. In 2001, I gave it away after he signed with the Yankees and got rid of his dirtbag image for pinstripes.
Somewhere in those years afterward, I never forgot that he was once the guy that Mark McGwire took under his wing and even begged St. Louis to sign (instead of Tino Martinez who the Yankees cast aside for the Cardinals despite his contributions to the magnificent run that all of their fans thought they had over the past 5 years). Sure, he was salivated over with Seattle in that year that the Mariners beat the Yankees in 1995, but it wasn't the same way that the Yankees lusted after Giambi. Like someone else's girlfriend that is hovered over when the imminent breakup is about to occur, but that doesn't work out when the window of opportunity is there (is everything a Seinfeld episode, or is it just me?)... Tino went to the Yankees, but he was quickly cast out when the opportunity came to get Giambi.
And so the Yankees did, but for the fact I gave his rookie card away (I wouldn't touch Yankee cards at that period of my life - especially ones that featured former "one of my favorite players"). I felt the same way with Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown. Randy was someone that I once adored the hell out of in only the way that a grown straight man can feel for a baseball player that he'll never know. Brown was someone whose talents I really liked. I didn't know much about his temper, but I'll tell you... I loved seeing him smash his hand in the dugout during a stretch run collapse.
Who knew that it was a sign of fierce competitor-ness / roid rage?
And when Giambi got struck by "parasites," I wasn't thinking about how he took Miguel Tejada to task in the 2001 playoffs for being a schlub. Though I never forgot that, I just felt that it was the universe paying him back for taking Yankee dollars and creating a demise of the Oakland team that was dominating August to make the playoffs year after year (Zito, Hudson, Mulder, Tejada).
He was 33, 43, and 38 for home runs in those last 3 Oakland years as he rose from the ashes of a dismantling that saw McGwire shipped to St. Louis. He was first in MVP in 2000 and second in 2001. He batted .315, .333, and .342 those last 3 years. He was 123, 137, and 120 for RBIs those years. He was also 105, 137, and 129 for walks in those campaigns! In the end, he was holding down the first sack and leading a team of dirt bags to the ALCS only to see them implode to the Yankees - we can blame the universe or we can blame his fat ass brother for that, but all the same... the A's were never to be again.
Giambi found a new hope and he found BALCO, and after 2 seasons without scruff, he wasn't the same man again. He did bounce back, but never to the level of his time in Oakland or his 2 41 home run seasons that began his New York tenure (and so began the Curse of Jason Giambi and Mike Mussina - the 2 players that the Yankees had to have at the end of their 3-year run, but couldn't win it all with).
He went back to Oakland in 2009, and it meant well at the beginning, but by the end of the year, he was playing in Denver, a town he still plays in. It's a bit role, and he sort of resembles the guy that he used to be - with a little more gray in the beard... the mustache thing is now over as he looks scruffy again, and for one evening, the old Jason was back killing Philadelphia substitute pitching (Kyle Kendrick) last night.
In the end, he had 3 homers and 7 RBIs.
Now that he's 40, he finally has a 3-homer game. He joins Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Reggie Jackson on that short list. For that, we wish him well and back in the lineup on a regular basis, but sadly, the end is coming... there will be no Cooperstown due to his non-specific apologies, but we will remember... that evening with Tejada's playoff goat self.
He was once the man.
Last night he was again.