Countdown to Spring Training: 32

(The following post is being syndicated from Second Place Is Not An Option.) We're continuing our countdown to Spring Training and we've reached 32 days.

Instead of writing about a player who wore #32, I decided to write about Jason Giambi. I know, you're probably wondering why but there is a method to my madness, I promise.

Jason Giambi was my favorite Yankee during his entire stint in Pinstripes. I supported him through thick and thin, hot and cold, sick and well, hitting and slumping, etc.

In this post, I will be writing about his 2005 season in which he hit 32 home runs.

See? I told you I'd explain myself...

***

2005 started off badly for Jason Giambi for a few reasons, mainly because of the BALCO investigation and what was leaked to the press.

That winter, shortly following the end of the 2004 season, Jason Giambi admitted in court that he used steroids. All types of them: Injections in the stomach, slipping stuff under the tongue; he had calendars that had everything mapped out, etc.

He had an awkward news conference at the Stadium in early 2005. What made it so odd was that he couldn't really answer any questions because the case was still ongoing. And this, of course, gave the New York sports media the perfect opportunity to paint Giambi as evil and a bum because as everyone knows, Jason Giambi was the only guy to do steroids in Major League Baseball. And if you believed that in 2005, I had a bridge to sell you.

After that press conference, I confidently predicted on my old geocities blog - don't judge - that Giambi was going to hit over 30 home runs that season. It was just a feeling I had.

In March 2005, I went down to Tampa for my first Spring Training. Unfortunately, my first game was rained out but my friends and I were entertained by the Congressional Hearings on Steroids. Remember those? It made for riveting television.

Okay, not really but work with me here.

Watching Rafael Palmeiro pointing his finger at Congress saying he never did steroids.

Yeah, okay.

Hearing Sammy Sosa suddenly forgetting how to speak English. Seeing Mark McGwire pleading the 5th and saying he wouldn't talk about the past. Oh and Curt Schilling was there too because when has he ever turned down the opportunity to babble in front of a microphone?

The next day we ventured to Legends Field. I was proudly wearing my Giambi 2002 American League All Star jersey. I was going to show my support no matter what and I didn't care what looks I'd get from people.

And it was as if Giambi knew I was there because he hit a home run, a double and a triple in the two games I saw that weekend. That reenforced my original prediction I declared that he'd have a good year and be able to put everything behind him.

Well, the regular season didn't start off that great. In fact, Giambi was doing so poorly, he was nearly sent down to the minors in May and to add insult to injury, Tino Martinez, who was signed to be Giambi's back up was hitting home runs left and right that same month.

Giambi, slowly came around. There were glimpses in June of what was to come in July. The walk off home run against the Pirates being one sign.

And oh what a July it was going to be.

The first game I attended in July was on the 10th against Cleveland. I actually wasn't even going to go because it was oppressively hot that day and my seats were in the Upper Deck. I really didn't want to die of heat exhaustion. Luckily for me, a friend had an extra ticket in the loge. It was perfect. I could be there and not sweat to death.

I ended up giving two of my tickets to a couple who were duped by fake scalped tickets. I warned them about being in the Upper deck and they said they didn't care, they just wanted to be at a Yankee game. So I gave them the tickets and I went up at one point during the game to collect the money - I didn't make them pay full price because I felt so bad for them.

Anyway, during that game, Giambi hit a home run off Jake Westbrook that looked like it had a flight crew on it. It just kept going and going and landed nearly 3/4 of the way up into the right field bleachers.

It was amazing.

His July actually started off well against Baltimore and he had a particularly good series. He hit two home runs on July 4 and another one on July 5.

Later that month, I attended a game on Sunday July 31, 2005 and it was the Yankees vs Angels. At the time, I was beginning to loathe the Angels as much as I loathed the Red Sox.

The Yankees had a big comeback win the previous game on a Hideki Matsui walk off double. Giambi also had a big HR to pull the Yankees within one run. So when I arrived to the Stadium the next day, I was hoping the Yankees would come out guns blazing and get out to a big lead.

That was not to be.

It was cap day, the Yanks were down 6-2 and my friend Dan destroyed his hat by the 6th inning. It was becoming apparent the Yankees would have to beat the Angels bullpen again. I reassured Dan that if the Yanks could get to them on Saturday, they would on Sunday as well.

I was right. The Yankees came back and won. Giambi had two home runs and in the most unlikely scenario, perhaps, ever, Tony Womack got the game winning single on a drawn in, five-guy infield.

And as good as that game was, nothing prepared me for August 28th 2005.

This time, I went to the game with my friends Kyle and Gen and as we were making our way up the escalators to the upper deck, Gen said, "I am feeling Giambi mojo today." I think I may have said, "From your lips to God's ears."

Boy, was she right.

Jason Giambi actually singlehanded beat the Kansas City Royals that day. The final score was 10-3 but Giambi had seven RBI. He hit two home runs, one two-run shot and a three-run shot and then hit a two-run single.

This was his curtain call that day:

Those aren't all of the Giambi home run games I attended that season. I saw him hit close to 10 home runs in person that year.

My favorite being on 9/11/05. It was a big game against the Sox - Randy Johnson vs Tim Wakefield at the Stadium on a Sunday afternoon. Giambi hit his home run in the first inning and it was the only run scored all game. Both teams only had three hits each and it was a true pitcher's duel. It was tremendous.

Giambi finished the 2005 season a .271/.440/.535/.975 line. He hit 32 home runs, walked 108 times and had a .422 wOBA and a wRC+ of 165.

At the time, I loved being right but unfortunately for all of us fans, the Yanks were ousted in first round of the playoffs by the hated Angels, again. (Just like in 2002) Giambi had a good series and  batted .421/.500/.579/1.079. It wasn't enough to overcome the rest of the lineup's ineptitude.

***

There were reports earlier this week that Jason Giambi was looking to play one more season and that he would take a minor league deal to make it happen. Part of me is wishing the Yankees would sign him but I know it's just a pipe dream.

If Giambi does sign somewhere, I hope he does as well as a 42-year-old former All-Star can do and I really wish him the best of luck.