It's hard to stomach Giambi winning Comeback award
Posted: Friday October 7, 2005 11:24AM; Updated: Friday October 7, 2005 11:24AM
Jason Giambi hit 22 homers after the All-Star break. He had 10 before then.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Here's what we learned about our national pastime on Thursday. John Smoltz is one courageous dude. The Padres' mediocre regular season record wasn't a fluke. And, at least to those fans who bother to log on to the Web and cast ballots for awards bankrolled by erectile dysfunction aids, steroids are no big deal.
That's the only conclusion to draw from the news that Jason Giambi is the American League Comeback Player of the Year. (Fans voted online for the new award, which is sponsored by the makers of Viagra.) There's no denying that Giambi had a fine season at the plate. After a brutal 2004 Giambi hit 32 homers and had a league-leading .440 on-base percentage, numbers that are especially impressive considering the Yankees wanted to send him to the minors in May. Lisa Kudrow wishes she had such a successful comeback.
But things get complicated when you remember what Giambi was coming back from. An eye infection early in 2004. A knee injury that bothered him later in the year. A mysterious intestinal parasite and a benign pituitary tumor that sapped his strength. And there was something else -- oh yeah, the leaked BALCO testimony in which in admitted he was a steroid user.
All players get hurt, but it's possible that at least one of the ailments that derailed Giambi's 2004 season and made him a comeback candidate was self-inflicted. (Pituitary tumors may be linked to heavy steroid use.) It's also possible that Giambi -- and every other major leaguer, for that matter -- isn't reformed. Baseball's drug testing policy (especially its ignorance of the human growth hormone problem) simply isn't strong enough to guarantee that the sport is clean.
Someone tell Jim Bunning: Fans don't seem to care about that. For all the talk about scarlet letters and black marks on the game, fans are remarkably willing to welcome confirmed cheaters back into their good graces. Americans love second chances. Giambi got one -- and, if he ever fails a drug test he'll get a third and a fourth -- and he took advantage of it.
Good for him, but he took advantage of us, too. He still hasn't publicly come clean about his steroid use, and he still hasn't said what all those apologies back in spring training were for. Until he does, I wouldn't give him any awards. I do, however, have a prediction for next year's Comeback winner. Congratulations, Rafael Palmeiro.