Yesterday I ran part one of the AN exclusive interview with Jason Giambi, who is proving you can come home again. Today the interview concludes. I want to thank Jason for taking out a little more than a half an hour immediately after he came out of the game with the Angels. I mean his uniform was still covered in dirt and he was still dripping sweat. It was a great gesture that G is committed to winning back any remaining holdovers who are still bitter about his departure for New York.
Enjoy. And don't forget, Nico interviewed Dallas Braden and that interview will be going up on Tuesday night at 7pm (it's outstanding as Braden very much has some Duchscherer-like thoughtfulness in his replies). Also, a long Beane interview is coming early next week. Banner week for AN. I hope it's getting you adequately pumped up for the season.
Blez: The A's offense last year was pretty dreadful. With Matt Holliday, yourself, Eric Chavez and Orlando Cabrera and even Nomar Garciaparra now in the mix, how do you feel about this offense? Especially coming from the perspective of someone who was surrounded by so many fantastic offensive players in New York? How does this offense look to you from someone who was in that Yankee lineup?
Giambi: I'm actually really excited about it. You go from top to bottom and think about it. We're going to have a healthy Eric Chavez. We're going to have a healthy Mark Ellis. Myself and Holliday. I think the guys you're really going to see step up this year are guys like Travis Buck and Ryan Sweeney. Those guys are really going to make this offense go. I know you have the veterans but you know what you're going to get from myself, Holliday and Orlando. But these (younger) guys are going to be the guys who are really going to step up this year because I think they're going to be given a chance to settle down in the lineup and know where they're going to hit instead of so many guys bouncing around last year it will be more of a set lineup.
Blez: Are you concerned with the injuries? You haven't been here, but the injuries in Oakland over the last three seasons have been devastating. Are you concerned with the injury issues or is there enough depth now?
Giambi: I think the biggest thing I'm excited about is Bob Alejo is back who I had during my first seven years with Oakland and then I took him with me to New York. He went off and now he'll be back. But I think that's really going to help the injury issues. I know that's one of the keys to winning in a small market is having your best team out there on the field every day.
Blez: This is a different kind of question, but I was wondering from someone who is in a major league lineup, do you think that lineup protection is a myth? Stats seem to say that it is a myth. But from the perspective of someone who has hit in the heart of a major league order, do you think there is such a thing as lineup protection?
Giambi: I think that if you're a guy who doesn't take his walks then you need protection. I'll give you a prime example. Take a guy like (Alfonso) Soriano. He needs someone to protect him because he is very aggressive when he swings the bat. He swings a lot so you have to make it so that the other team is a bit afraid of the guy behind you. But I've also been in lineups, like when I was here before in the early days, where there weren't a lot of guys hitting behind me. You just have to learn to take your walks. I believe that you can help the guy in front of you and behind you if you are a guy who takes his walks. Then all of sudden there are more guys on base and it becomes protection because you know this guy is going to take a walk and then I'll be able to bat situationally. You can use that to your advantage.
Blez: What about clutch hitting? A lot of people point to Derek Jeter as the poster boy for what a clutch hitter is. Do you think there are guys who tend to come through more with the game on the line or do you believe in clutch hitting?
Giambi: I believe clutch hitting is a part of your makeup. You know playing all those years with Derek, the one thing I learned from him when I first got there was that he just takes it as another at bat. He learned how to harness that energy. That energy of knowing this is a huge at-bat. The guy on the mound knows it's a huge at-bat. He's learned somehow to harness that and make it no different than any other at-bat. So then he'll get that pitch he's looking for because the pitcher makes a mistake. He doesn't try to do too much and then gets that hit. That's probably the biggest thing I learned that he taught me. I wound up getting a lot of big hits in New York later on because I learned to just wait for my pitch and not do too much.
Blez: Rather than changing your approach for that big at-bat?
Giambi: Exactly. Exactly. Like oh my God I've got to hit it 800 feet. Jeets is like, I just want to hit the ball hard and keep it really simple.
Blez: Is that something that you believe can ultimately be taught or something you can either do or not do?
Giambi: I think you can learn. You can take the time to learn to really look into the depth of it. Really talk to guys and I do think you can learn it. Then you suddenly have that one at-bat in a key situation and it clicks for you and then oh OK, this is what it's all about.
Blez: Do you love the Bay Area? I imagine the night life in New York is quite different.
Giambi: I grew up in the Bay Area. My wife is from there. I went to New York and enjoyed it. It's New York and it's the city that never sleeps. At the same time, I love the fans from the Bay Area. It's quaint and nice and beautiful. People are great and really loyal to their ballclubs. I'm looking forward to it.
Blez: What are you looking most forward to about being back in the Bay Area?
Giambi: It's kind of home. I kind of grew up there. My parents are close and are from Southern California so it makes it relatively easy for them to come up and watch a lot of games like they used it. It's familiar. It will be fun to go back to where it all started.
Blez: A lot of A's fans roundly booed you when you came to Oakland after first signing with the Yankees and continued to do that throughout your time with the Yankees. Some are still angry about you departing for the Yankees. Some still on Athletics Nation bring up the appearance you did on David Letterman when you first signed in New York and you publicly dissed Oakland.
Giambi: I dissed myself. You just get to read the Top 10 List. You just read off a list. It wasn't like I wrote it. It's just a joke.
Blez: Is there something that you think you can say or do for some of the more stubborn A's fans who may have some lingering anger over you leaving for New York? Here's your chance to talk directly to the fans.
Giambi: Trust me, I would have loved to have stayed. Like I told you, we had a deal done. You can ask Billy. I felt like we were this close to going to the World Series every year. We were this close to getting past the Yankees. Just two game fives.
Blez: That still hurts A's fans.
Giambi: Yeah and we developed that rivalry. It's tough but I understand that and I never took it personally. I totally understood. That's probably one of things that I'm most looking forward to about coming back is trying to finish what I started.
Blez: How much did it hurt you to have to shave the goat and chop the hair? That seemed so intrinsically locked to your persona at the time. I mean you had the Sports Illustrated cover and everything.
Giambi: Oh God. Definitely it was tough. I don't think my top lip had seen sun in like 10 years.
Blez: So did you have a big white outline right there?
Giambi: Yeah it took me a long time to get it done. Even when I was there (New York) I'd get the call every day, "You need to shave." It was just tough for me to do it.
Blez: Was that from Big Stein himself?
Giambi: Oh yeah he'd call me down all the time.
Giambi: Oh yeah.
Blez: Is it kind of good to be away from that at this point?
Giambi: I'm excited.
Blez: Are you going to try and grow the hair long again?
Giambi: I don't know if it grows back as fast any more. I'm a little older and there's quite a bit of gray in it now, but I'm going to try. Now we have Travis Buck here with the long hair to keep the tradition going.
Blez: There you go. You're getting near the end of your career. I know some guys are playing into their 40s now but have you given any thought as to what you might like to do at the end of your career? You did mention that you like the mentoring part of it. Maybe you want to move into a front office position? Maybe a coach? Do you still want to stay in the game?
Giambi: I love playing. I mean to have a chance to be out there every day and play a kid's game. I really, really enjoy being at the ballpark and being around the guys. You know getting 25 guys all going in the same direction. I haven't really sat down and thought about it. I'm just trying to take it year by year. My body feels really good so I think I can do a few more.
Blez: So nothing in terms of coaching?
Giambi: I haven't really thought about it much because I'm enjoying where I'm at right now.
Blez: I have to imagine that you must be really tired of any questions involving steroids at this point. People show up here specifically to ask you that question whenever news breaks. My question is a little different though. Is the media much more obsessed with this than the fans are at this point? I get the impression that many fans are tired of hearing about it at this point.
Giambi: I think everybody is. But the problem is this. It's still news. It's still in the paper. I said it a long time ago, but if we had known 10 years ago that it would turn out to be what it was, something would have been implemented. And we would've had a program. I think the current (testing) program is great. I think we've gone the right direction.
Blez: Does it need to be stronger?
Giambi: I don't know if you can get it stronger other than...
Blez: Blood tests.
Giambi: Well the biggest thing is you have to play 162 games. It's not like the Olympics where it's a window of two weeks. And guys are trying to get guys on the field and the testing is such that you can't even take Afrin. I think it's a great program and all we can do is go forward. Unfortunately you can always go back.
Blez: At some point, isn't it enough?
Giambi: I do. We have a lot of great things going on now. We have a great program and we just need to move forward.
Blez: Is there a feeling that the fans care less about this than the media does?
Giambi: I don't think the fans really cared before. I think it was more the media.
Blez: The feeling that I've gotten is that the media tries to make up for maybe turning the other way back in the day. The media is sort of pushing it extra hard now as a make good for what they didn't do in the past.
Giambi: I don't know. You'd have to talk to the media about that. The biggest thing for me in my situation is that I did the right thing and that was best for me. I've now gone forward and I'm still playing.
Blez: Well thank you for everything. I appreciate you taking so much time to talk to Athletics Nation.
Giambi: Any time bro. I appreciate what you do.