Jason Giambi has retired from playing baseball, he announced today in a statement. "Ever since I was five years old, all I ever wanted to be was a Major League Baseball player. The Oakland A's, New York Yankees, Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians were a big part of helping that dream come true," Jason Giambi wrote in the statement released to the New York Daily News. The 44-year-old also thanked his family, teammates, coaches, fans, and others for his time in baseball.
Giambi with the A's: Round 1
The A's drafted Giambi with the 58th overall selection of the 1992 draft and rose quickly through the A's farm. After a cup of coffee debut in May of 1995, Giambi was in the bigs for good from July 7, hitting his first double that day. The next day, he hit the first of 440 career home runs, this one off of Blue Jays pitcher David Cone:
Giambi's first stint with Oakland spanned seven seasons, good for 187 home runs, a batting line of .308/.412/.545, and an OPS+ of 148.
His 2000 campaign resulted in his American League MVP season, when he led the Athletics to their first return to the postseason since losing the 1992 ALCS. He led all of baseball in walks (137) and on base percentage (.476), finishing the year with 43 home runs. In the five-game ALDS against the New York Yankees, Giambi was 4-for-14, but drew seven walks (just one intentional).
Giambi returned in 2001, finishing as the runner-up in the AL MVP voting, a mere eight points behind Ichiro Suzuki during the Mariners' 116-46 campaign. The A's were merely the Wild Card that year at 102-60, and lost again to the New York Yankees, Giambi this time hitting a home run in the seventh inning of Game 1 that put that game out of reach from the Bronx Bombers.
Leaving Oakland the villain
Giambi's first stint in Oakland came to an end under circumstances that at the time led to a great deal of bitterness from A's fans. At the end of his initial team control, the A's offered Giambi a six-year, $91 million extension to stay with the team but declined to give him the no-trade clause he demanded. Instead, Giambi went to the team that had beaten him twice in a row in the postseason, the Evil Empire, the New York Yankees.
It was a little unfair to Giambi in retrospect. The Yankees had outbid the A's by $12 million (if the Yankees had bought out its 2008 option), and we soon learned that the Hoffman-Schott regime would be notoriously thrifty.
Giambi did himself no favors, however, when he read out number three on David Letterman's Top 10 list of reasons Giambi wanted to play for the Yankees, "Have you ever been to Oakland?" The joke was Letterman's, of course, but that mattered little to the fans that greeted the now clean-shaven Giambi with cries of "greed," "traitor," and "sellout" upon his return to the Coliseum:
In his first game back in Oakland since the A's division series loss to the Yankees last October, Giambi looked more embarrassed over all the attention than mortified by the vitriol emanating from the crowd of 40,360. One fan even held a Giambi bobblehead doll -- in an A's uniform -- hanging by its neck from a string.
Giambi's accomplishments to that point were impressive, though not without controversy. Giambi was implicated in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) steroid scandal. Under oath before a grand jury, Giambi "testified that in 2003, when he hit 41 home runs for the Yankees, he had used several different steroids obtained from Greg Anderson, weight trainer for San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds," wrote Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams for the San Francisco Chronicle on December 2, 2004.
In 2007, Giambi admitted publicly to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY that he had used performance-enhancing drugs in the past and apologized while calling on baseball to do the same, "I was wrong for doing that stuff. ... What we should have done a long time ago was stand up - players, ownership, everybody - and said: 'We made a mistake.'"
The scandal eventually resulted in MLB implementing its first written performance-enhancing drug penalties in the 2005 season.
Giambi with the A's: Round 2
Jason Giambi returned to Oakland for the 2009 season after the Yankees declined his option. Sitting down with Athletics Nation's Tyler Bleszinski, Giambi revealed that the A's actually had a deal on the table ready to sign before ownership pulled it off the table:
Blez: Do you have any regrets that you didn't stay in Oakland?
Giambi: No. Trust me, I wanted to stay in Oakland. We had a deal done. You can ask Billy Beane. It was my free agent year before the season started. And ownership at the time pulled the deal off the table. I had flown my parents out, my agent, everybody. A lot of people don't know that.
Blez: It was that close?
Giambi: Oh I thought it was a done deal. You can ask Billy. It was a done deal and ownership pulled it back. The rest is history for when I became a free agent and then New York came after me. I mean it was what it was. I tried to stay but unfortunately it didn't work out.
The 2009 season ultimately was a largely forgettable one, Bob Geren's third consecutive losing campaign, finishing with a dreary 75-87. However, Jason Giambi treated the A's faithful to his 400th career home run, off of Diambondbacks pitcher Dan Haren:
Giambi's return at age 38 unfortunately did not come close to what he had accomplished before. After 83 games of .193/.332/.364 ball, the A's released him, whereupon he signed with the Colorado Rockies, where he played through 2012.
After two final seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Giambi hangs it up for good today, an A's legend.