Thursday, January 8, 2009
Me: "You hear the A's signed Jason Giambi?"
Mrs. Bootleg: "That must've made you unhappy."
Me: "Y'know, truth be told…I never stopped loving him."
Mrs. Bootleg: "…"
It's probably a good thing I didn't have a lightly-read blog back on December 13, 2001. When Jason Giambi signed with the New York Yankees, I was – to put it politely – pissed. It had been almost a decade since I had an A's team I actually adored and I naively bought into the Bluto Blutarsky persona that Giambi self-marketed with aplomb.
See, I remembered when the A's called up this skinny third baseman in May 1995. I'd spent a few seasons following my favorite team from afar after the strike, but Giambi had done time in my hometown at Long Beach State University. And, Lord knows that '95 A's team was old (38-year-old Dave Stewart was our Opening Day starter) and awful (Craig Paquette! Brent Gates! Mike Harkey!).
Within three seasons, Giambi was the best homegrown player on the roster and by 2000 the entire organization had been rebuilt in the mold of his "take n' rake" philosophy.
Giambi said all the right things leading into his 2001 contract year. Hell, the rumor was that he and the team were this close to agreeing on a six-year, $90 million deal in Spring Training. Then, came word that Giambi wanted a full no-trade clause. An instant later, both sides decided to table negotiations until after the season.
Watching the crocodile tears at Giambi's introductory press conference in New York was nauseating at first, then Jason punctuated it with a collective punch to A's fans stomachs when he declared that he always wanted to be a Yankee.
Giambi's first game back in Oakland in 2002 was surreal. The normally 80% empty Coliseum was filled to capacity and Giambi was booed on a level that I'd only heard when Darryl Strawberry returned to Shea Stadium as a Dodger and Alex Rodriguez first visited Seattle as a Ranger. Personally, I think booing is stupid…but, on this night, it was glorious.
And, now Jason Giambi is back. Cool, whatever. It's a terrific low-risk deal for the A's with only $5.25 million guaranteed up front on a one-year commitment plus an option. He's clearly in decline, but the A's middle of the order will at least be intriguing with Giambi, Matt Holliday and Jack Cust.
Giambi's first run with the A's restored my fanaticism in the sport and for that, he'll get a pass from me in his encore.