Can Giambi be that kind of devastating all-fields hitter again? Given his age, the adjustment to DH, past knee problems and his sensitive nature amid the constant attention and criticism that will follow him because of steroids ("He knows he has to walk through fire," Cashman said), it is doubtful, though not impossible.
Likewise, Sosa, if only because of his age -- he threw out his back sneezing last year -- may not get back to the offensive machine who led the NL in total bases three times from 1998-2001. In his case, the chance to DH once or twice a week (more if he continues to suffer minor injuries) will be a good thing. He will do so willingly.
I do not believe that playing home games in Camden Yards is in itself an elixir. The ballpark generally has been overrated as a home-run haven. Last year, for instance, it ranked 12th in home runs allowed -- well below Sosa's old home, Wrigley Field. Wrigley is notoriously fickle when it comes to park effect because it is so weather-dependent. It can play as baseball's smallest park or its biggest, depending largely on the winds and temperature. Last year must have been a warm one with hitter-friendly winds in Chicago. U.S. Cellular Park and Wrigley ranked 1-2 in the majors as the easiest parks in which to hit a home run.
Like Giambi, Sosa needs to make real mechanical adjustments at the plate to begin producing at a high level again. He drifted much too far from the plate last year and looked awful on outside pitches. (The armchair diagnosis: the effects of being beaned in 2003.)
Sosa may also have to get real about what kind of numbers he can put up. He seemed to get caught up in chasing numbers in the second half of last season to salvage a good statistical line. As a result, he did hit more homers in the second half (19 vs. 16), but his batting average dropped (.233, .279) and he stopped getting on base (.300, .372). He finished the year hitting 53 points worse with runners on (.224) than without (.277).
Sosa may not be happy with how his career in Chicago ended, but he is happy about getting a new start in Baltimore. He likes the town, the ballpark and the team's franchise player, Miguel Tejada. His mind seems clear and there seems to be a positive vibe about him in Baltimore, which no longer was the case in Chicago. That's important to a self-styled crowd pleaser like Sosa. All of that makes for your typically sunny Spring Training stories about "looking forward to a new start," but the bottom line is Sosa has to prove that his hitting skills have not diminished.
At one time Giambi and Sosa were among the game's greatest overall hitters and most popular players. What are they now? No one knows for sure. Whatever the answer, they will be fascinating to watch.