Oakland A's Release Jason Giambi: Things Fall Apart
With yesterday's release of Jason Giambi and today's placement of Russ Springer on waivers (quickly snapped up by the Tampa Bay Rays), the youth movement has begun anew in Oakland, quicker than you can say, "Don't tase me, bro."
Giambi, once a golden god with the thong to prove it, was supposed to be the prodigal son returning to Oakland, and with Matt Holliday, would strengthen the middle of the order for a possible playoff push, even at the cost of taking time away from younger and more permanent mainstays in Oakland.
Now after that brief, unsuccessful hiatus, the Athletics' commitment to the crucial 21-27-year-old demographic is back on. It's officially Tommy Time in Oakland, whether Tommy or the town is ready for it or not.
But I'm not here to talk about the future; I'm here to talk about the past. Giambi, the former AL MVP, played a crucial role for the A's, on and off the field.
He was an important bridge between the Bash Brothers and the Moneyball Era. He was the Second Coming of Mark McGwire—unfortunately, in more ways than one, we'd later discover.
That point was driven home last week when he presented former teammate Rickey Henderson with a trophy commemorating the retirement of Henderson's jersey.
Now, perhaps like Henderson, Giambi is driven into retirement sooner than he wished, betrayed by the vagaries of a cruel game, and even more cruelly, time itself.
He's now just another guy without a job, who hit .193 this season—the lowest in the majors—and spent the better part of the season mired in batting slumps and trainer rooms.
It's tough to see Giambi sticking with any contender this season after what he had shown this season, and there is probably a coaching position in his near future, perhaps provided by his buddy Billy Beane, who was burdened with the duty of telling Giambi he was no longer quite good enough to play for the fourth-worst team in the American League.
As we note what appears to be the passing of Giambi's career, one is left to wonder what exactly his legacy will be.
Outside of the fans and players in Oakland and New York who will remember Giambi for the joie de vivre he brought to any field or clubhouse he chose to grace with his presence—along with his toy remote control race cars—many will remember Giambi for his place in baseball's sad steroid saga.
Unfortunately, other than his MVP award, which has now been forever regarded as being of dubious merit, Giambi may be best known for his role as the first active player to admit to steroid use and cooperate with the Mitchell investigation.
Like fellow Athletic Jose Canseco, Giambi will be one of the more prominent footnotes in baseball's Juice Era.
However, while one cannot deny that Giambi may have just been another cheater, he did what few players in his day did—he actually stepped up to the plate and admitted his wrongdoing (even, if perhaps, he had little choice in the matter):
"I alone am responsible for my actions and I apologize to the commissioner, the owners and the players for any suggestion that they were responsible for my behavior."
While you wouldn't necessarily tell your kids to emulate the shortcuts Giambi took in achieving professional success, you can't help but admire his response when confronted with his past, opting for honest disclosure upon enduring the worst professional lowlight a ballplayer could this decade.
Being a baseball fan, as with anything else, is about choices, from the team you choose to support to choosing whether you'll enjoy an eight-dollar domestic or ten-dollar import with your ballgame (as well as the choice a fan makes between enjoying said adult beverage as a potent potable or potent projectile).
When we look back at this time in baseball, fans are going to have to make a lot of tough choices about the game: what to remember from what will be perceived as a tainted time, what it is that will ultimately endure.
A player makes choices, too, and Giambi made his, and he'll have to live with that choice long after his career ends, whether or not that point arrived Friday.
I choose to remember Giambi as a great player and an even better baseball personality. During many rough seasons for the A's, he was sometimes the only reason to show up to the park.
Mostly, I'll remember Giambi as the poster boy for those charming beer league teams of the late '90s and early '00s, with players who had last names like Jaha, Menechino and Stairs, and looked more like Ricky's regulars than they did actual ballplayers.
Giambi was Oakland, the guy who drove his Harley through Hegenberger fast food drive-thrus, a Son of Anarchy graced with a mighty clout, either by nature or design. He was an Athletic even a Raiders fan could love.
Whatever chapter is next written in your career, Giambino the Amazing Dancing Bear, I hope it's as entertaining as the last few were, without the sadness of the very last.
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