With most reports from Tampa have Yankees 1B Jason Giambi being greeted warmly by fans, Newsday’s Ken Davidoff would like to know, well, why?
Having watched Giambi receive a hero’s welcome at Legends Field, and pretty close to it on the road yesterday, we can’t understand why so many people cut so much slack for this guy.
Obviously, Fenway Park will be brutal, but considering how many Yankees fans visit other ballparks, friendly road crowds like this one figure to be common for Giambi — at least until he hits his first slump.
“It’s humbling to go back and see that,” Giambi said after going 1-for-4 in the Yankees’ 9-8 loss to Detroit.
“It’s exciting to see.”
We get it that Giambi seems to be a good person. He always has displayed a smooth touch with fans, and he signed autographs non-stop for 10 minutes before yesterday’s game. We’d guess that if our car broke down and Giambi drove by, he would stop and get out his jumper cables — whereas Derek Jeter would just shrug and step on the gas, and Gary Sheffield would help only if we guaranteed the interest on his deferred money.
But Giambi has emitted the whiff of fraudulence since even before he signed his seven-year, $120-million deal with the Yankees. Far too often, his actions have clashed with his words. And people seem to prioritize the words.
It was his childhood dream to be a Yankee … yet he dragged out negotiations back in December 2001 as he tried to get a few more pennies from George Steinbrenner. He prides himself on being a gamer … yet he didn’t object when Joe Torre benched him in Game 5 of the 2003 World Series. He wants children to think of him as someone facing his problems, not running from them … yet he has spoken in only the vaguest terms about his past, and he wants no part of the March 17 congressional hearing.
And these fans seem to forget that Giambi has failed them in the area in which they care the most. The Yankees, for one, seem convinced that Giambi’s inability to keep himself in “first-class physical condition,” as his contract dictates, resulted from both his steroid use and his love of partying — and produced his meager stats last year.
“It was sad,” said John McGinty, a Yankees fan who lives in Boston. “But you give people a chance. That’s what this is all about.”
We’d feel better about granting a second chance if we received a full mea culpa about the initial mistakes. Or, short of that, at least an honest explanation of why he won’t tell us everything — something like, “Folks, ain’t no way I’m giving up that $82 million.”
Alas, we’re left with the reality that nearly everybody loves Jason. And that cheating and lying don’t offend you as much as they do us.
I think Davidoff is taking the small sample of senior citizens and baseball degenerates that attend exhibition games and drawing an incorrect conclusion. The rapport between fans and players at Spring Training is slightly different — heck, even Barry Bonds, who charged $5000 for the opportunity to shake his hand earlier in the year, was seen signing autographs (for free) last week. Once the season starts, if Giambi is struggling to stay in the lineup, never mind hit .230, even the most dedicated Pinstripes Apologists aren’t gonna spare him a monumental amount of abuse.