This appears in the Monday September 24, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
Twilight of the Giambino
Twilight of the Giambino
by rick olivares pic by rob carr/getty images
I read with great interest Chris Ballard’s column on the Colorado Rockies’ Jason Giambi who is now in the twilight of his career and far removed from his fearsome slugger days. I try to follow when I can the careers of former Yankees. In fact, I think it’s terrible how Alfonso Soriano faded away. How Melky Cabrera finally found the success he craved for but never got as a utility player in New York only to see it massively tainted by performance enhancing drugs.
Living in New York is now a cherished memory. How I love this time of the year – there’s a chill in the air as the cold months have set in. If the pace is already quick then it doubles because of the cold. The Giants and the Jets have entered the picture with the Knicks also barroom and chat room fodder. And then there’s the playoff chase to play in October.
When I was a kid, I went to sleep with my football next to me. That was my teddy bear. As an adult, I went to sleep at this time of the year (since it’s colder) either in my Islanders jersey or a Yankees jersey. My flatmates used to call me, “Mr. Yankee.” I was like Reggie Jackson to them. Larger than life. One who extolled the virtues of Derek Jeter. While a roomie was overly concerned about the GDP I gobbled up the OBP. I understood what couch potato meant. With a couple of hundred cable channels to choose from who the hell wants to get up and go to work?
Back to Giambi.
After Tino (Martinez) Bambino we got the Giambino. Heir to the Sultan of Swat. Only his Yankee teams made two World Series but did not win it. By the time he left the team, New York won it again.
During the height of his career in New York, I was working the tables one afternoon in the Upper East Side restaurant where I worked (East 86th and Lexington) when Giambi, third baseman Robin Ventura, and outfielder Karim Garcia entered for some eats. There’s an unwritten rule in our restaurant where you do not go up to any celebrity to ask for an autograph. You didn’t have to work there for that to that to take effect. One kid sought out The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini one time and instead he got a chiding that was tantamount to a rubout. Scarlett Johansson was there one time and rules be damned I tried. I had to settle for her table napkin that had her kiss mark and lipstick on it (I still have it after all these years).
My bud Emon and I are huge Yankees fans. Funny how a guy from Bangladesh is a huge baseball fan but there we were breaking rules and asking for autographs and pictures. Emon didn’t have any paper so he asked Giambi to sign a menu! Hilarious! I used a card that we would slip to the kitchen for orders (I still have the autograph).
The intercom buzzed and it was the on-duty manager, Jim Rose, who called my attention. Damn. I’m a goner. Only when I went down to see Jim he gave me a copy of the New York Post with Giambi on the back cover and asked me if I could get the Yankees’ slugger to sign it. Whew.
When Giambi was outted for using PEDs, Emon wrote me and said that he had stuffed his old pinstripes with “Giambi” on the back inside one of his drawers. “Maybe one day it will see the light of day again in the stadium,” he wrote via email several years ago.
I have a couple, Paul O’Neill and Derek Jeter, that I still wear with pride to this day (my son still has his Alex Rodriguez). I still have my Giambi medallion, baseball cards, and well team photo that is also autographed. The steroid scandal/age still makes my head spin. Do the stats accumulated during those wild days count or not? I have no idea and will leave that to the proper authorities to determine.
So I watched the Rockies the other day and Ballard’s column all the more made me think of Giambi and where he was and where he is now.
This season he’s played in only 60 games! That’s one-third of the season. He’s only gotten 89 ABs with 20 hits and get this – one home run. He ha struck out 24 times despite an OPB of .372 and a .303 SLG average. Young studs like Wilin Rosario and Carlos Gonzalez are the team’s hitting leaders.
As Ballard pointed out, it has been a love fest send-away for Atlanta’s Chipper Jones this season. Giambi? Who knows if he will be back after this year?
In his first year with Oakland in 1995, he played behind Mark McGwire and figured in only 54 games. When Big Mac was traded to St. Louis the following two seasons later, Giambi flourished (to date he has career stats of .281 BA, 429 HRs, 1,405 RBIs, 1,967 hits, and a lifetime .404 OBP).
Now…. well, he’s a part time player. He did provide Colorado with a fleeting vision of the player he once was when he hit three home runs in one game in May 19th of last year against the Philadelphia Phillies.
This year, he hardly gets off the bench. Only when regular first baseman Jordan Pacheco needs a day off does Giambi play. As for promise? Well, the promise of a title in Oakland never happened and he whiffed in his one trip to the World Series with New York.
It’s been a tough at-bat but I still root for Jason Giambi.