BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
There is no question that the month of September is one of the most exciting months in sports. The baseball pennant races become more intense, college and pro football dominate the headlines and there is more news about the NHL and NBA.
MLB teams have to enjoy September the most because now they can expand their rosters to 40 players as the minor league seasons conclude. For the contenders, it's an opportunity to rest their regulars and add depth plus evaluate their talent for the future and see what players stick around or become good trade bait.
For the teams that are out of the playoff chase, September to them is what the NFL pre-season is and that's an opportunity to look towards the future and give their younger players more playing time.
But there are certain players that have to be thankful for the month of September. One which clearly comes to mind is Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi.
As much as I've come to realize that the steroid era is a black mark in MLB history and I've rarely cared about the subject, when I think of Giambi, his numbers are what the game has turned into. One that needs more asterisks.
My childhood hero is legendary Detroit Tigers right-fielder Al Kaline. I find it hard to believe that Kaline's 399 homers ranks 43rd on the all-time list. I once asked Kaline during spring training if he regretted that he didn't stick around and hit that milestone homer, and he told he did because of all the conversation it sparked after his retirement. It didn't affect his Hall of Fame status because he made it on the first ballot in 1980.
Kaline went on to have a lifetime batting average of .297, 1,583 RBIs, 3,007 hits, in 2,834 games with 11,597 at bats in a career which saw him become an All-Star 15 times and win a World Series Championship in 1968 during 21 seasons. Kaline's hit totals are 25th on the all-time list.
As for Giambi, his numbers are enough to make me gag. The 38-year-old signed a one-year contract in January to return to Oakland for $5.25 million. The A's received a .193 average, 11 homers, 40 RBIs in 83 games before they finally released him this summer. At the end of August, the Rockies signed him for the stretch run.
Giambi's career numbers are 407 homers, 1,322 RBIs, 1,865 hits, 1935 games, 6,602 at bats, and a lifetime batting average of .282. He hasn't won a championship but was a shrewd enough businessman to collect millions of dollars from the NY Yankees. The only thing the Yankees fans didn't receive from Giambi is an admittance that he didn't use steroids, though his body language and voice inflections were all we needed.
Now Giambi doesn't need steroids to pad his future numbers because he has the thin air of Denver's Coors Field. Whether he plays regularly or is used as it appears as a pinch-hitter as he is now, this guy has more breaks than any player I've seen in a long time.
But the only way to describe Giambi is he's a fraud of a flawed system. Just looking at his home run, hits, at bats and games compared to those of Kaline are enough to validate that point. But if there is one justice that will be served when comparing the "Rocky Mountain Fraud" to those of "Mr. Tiger" Al Kaline, is that Giambi won't make it to Baseball's Hall of Fame.
As strong as the National League looks this year, The Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals are so good that any of them could make it to the World Series. If the San Francisco Giants reach the post-season as a Wild-Card team, then with the addition of Brad Penny, they can't even be ruled out to reach the Fall Classic.
Wild-Card teams in the past have fared well in the playoffs and if the Giants were to win the World Series then double justice would be served because the Rockies experiment to bring Giambi would have failed and the biggest fraud on the planet Barry Bonds will still be without a championship ring.
But I give the Rockies credit, they had to make a move to reach the post-season, and a guy with Giambi's power should fit in well in the mile high thin air.
Who knows, they might like him so much that he could pad his numbers next year in Denver and maybe be lucky enough to reach 500 homers should he stay in Colorado for multiple seasons. If he does reach that milestone, he'd be in the right place.
At least Kaline's place in baseball history is sacred and I'm sure that deep down inside he agrees with the rest of the rest of baseball's legends, that he did things the right way therefore doesn't dwell on the players who belong in Baseball's Hall of Shame because they are cheaters.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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