Jason Giambi, in his Prime?
This past Sunday, September 8th, Jason Giambi joined the 2,000 hit club. This isn’t one of baseball’s hallowed numbers, but it isn’t sneeze worthy either. Only 245 players have reached the 2,000 hit plateau, 19 of which are still active. Giambi, now 42 and in his 19th Major League season, said of the milestone, “It’s been a long journey. With all the ups and downs and things I’ve gone through, it feels like 4,000. I’ll definitely take it and I’ll treasure it, for sure.”
These “ups and downs” Giambi alludes to include admitted steroid use. In his heyday the chemically enhanced Giambi was a 5 time All-Star and the AL MVP in 2000. He topped 40 homers three times (43 his highest), drove in over 100 runs seven times (maxing out at 137) and batted as high as .342. Impressive numbers had he been clean. But the past is the past, and Giambi is one of the very few players who has managed to survive into the present. That quality alone should be admired. So many “stars” fade into the background and can’t face the scorn, criticism and embarrassment that Giambi waded through after his steroid use became public (hi, Barry).
Not only has Giambi survived, but he’s become a leader. Despite hitting just .186 with 8 homers and 29 RBI this year Giambi has earned the respect and admiration of his manager and teammates. Indians manager Terry Francona recently said, “I’ve never been around somebody who has the presence he has. I’ve gone to him more times than is fair, just asking his advice or for help with something, and he’s always there. He’s just tremendous.”
You can see this relationship in action when watching a game. Francona and Giambi, often leaning on the railing together, deep in conversation. Giambi is obviously interested in managing at some point. In fact, he interviewed for the Rockies position prior to this season. This “on the job training” he is receiving from Francano should help tremendously when that time finally comes. Giambi’s experience (aka troubled past) could prove to be a hidden benefit. During Spring Training he stated, “I’ve been to the top of the mountain and down to the gutter in this game,” a dichotomy that should help him relate to a wide audience of player types and personalities.
Regardless of how the rest of this season players out, Giambi has been a valued member of the clubhouse. He should be proud of his 2,000th hit for it represents his courage in not walking away from the game when times got tough (pride in his MVP is another story). Hopefully lessons from his experience rub off on younger teammates, preventing them from repeating his mistakes. And hopefully, for Giambi, he eventually gets a crack at managing when he hangs up his cleats. Any organization should see his skills and background as an asset. If they have doubts, they can just call Terry Francona.
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