It was very sad news to wake up to that former Oakland A Jeremy Giambi has passed away at the age of 47.
Jeremy’s entire career unfairly was overshadowed by one thing he was not and one thing he didn’t do.
He was not his older brother: Jason was the MVP, Jeremy was Jason’s brother. Not that this ever seemed to bother him, indeed by all accounts he took it all in good humour.
The thing he didn’t do – slide into home plate in that fateful Game Three in the 2001 ALDS against the New York Yankees – is usually the thing that comes to mind whenever people remember him, especially his time with the Oakland A’s
Just the other day I saw a tweet about Bill Bucknor, making the point that his entire career, spanning 22 seasons, was unfairly overshadowed by a single fielding misplay. Of course it was a significant moment in the 1986 World Series and was thrown into the longer narrative of the Curse of the Bambino foiling the Boston Red Sox for decades; however, it was one simple error that he was never allowed to forget.
Jeremy didn’t have the lengthy career that Bucknor enjoyed, but he was good enough to play across six seasons in the Big Leagues. More specifically, he was a valuable contributor to the great 2001 A’s team, with only his brother posting a higher on-base percentage.
That always gets forgotten when A’s fans look back at 2001. All we see is him having the chance to tie the game 1-1 in the bottom of the 7th inning, keeping alive the hopes of sweeping the Evil Empire and potentially going all the way to earning a fifth World Series championship in Oakland. All those dreams crushed by his decision not to slide into home plate.
The belief that he should have done so surely remains in all who saw it then or have seen it since (and, yes, we’ll get to that next), yet equally there is no doubt that if we had come back and won that game, or taken one of the next two, it would have been brushed away with little thought. It is seen as a turning point in that series not really because of the play itself, but the fact that we didn’t do anything to turn the tide back in our favour for the rest of it.
It’s also seen as a turning point because it has become part of the fawning over Derek Jeter. To this day, we cannot watch a game on MLB.TV over here in the UK without seeing it several times during the highlights they show during commercial breaks. Every time I see it I think it’s considerably less-impressive than most people seem to want to make out, but I guess that’s the Jeter/Yankees propaganda machine for you.
And the other thing, as pointed out in the San Francisco Chronicle’s article about Jeremy’s death, is that he still got into home plate ahead of the tag anyway! Not that I think the replay review team in New York would have overturned it, based on our experience with that system since its introduction, but at least they could have taken the grief for getting the call wrong rather than it all being lumbered on Jeremy.
None of that matters now, though. Jeremy Giambi’s death is a tragedy for his family and friends and all of us who enjoyed so many incredible moments from the A’s teams of 2000 and 2001 that he was part of.
They are what he should be remembered for.