I went to Jamba Juice yesterday for an afternoon pick-me-up. After several moments of deliberation, I settled on an Aloha Pineapple smoothie. I usually order a Strawberry Whirl, but for some strange reason I shook things up yesterday. The Strawberry Whirl is not an exciting frozen beverage. The drink’s strawberry-banana base does not shock one’s taste buds and it even bears a boring name. Yet, what the Strawberry Whirl lacks in boldness it makes up for in its consistently delicious flavor, making it a safe bet. I however have been watching far too much Rockies baseball as of late to settle for safe bets.
Maybe it was the wild orange and green walls that caused me to avoid the Strawberry Whirl. Or perhaps it was the fact that I had slugged my way through 48 ounces of coffee before 2 PM and was feeling frivolous. Electric colors and caffeine aside, I truly believe it was the Rockies that persuaded me to up the ante on my smoothie order. I thought of Giamba Juice while standing in line at my local Jamba Juice and immediately determined that it was time to knock my tongue out of the park.
The recent moves to acquire Juice Daddy and Jose Contreras demonstrate the Rockies commitment to the present. As a fan, I could not be more pleased. The looseness of the Rockies clubhouse has already rubbed off on Giambi. He is as relaxed as he is poised. Furthermore, pitching in the National League will probably allow Contreras to challenge John Smoltz and Brad Penny for the Cy Young Award.
I am particularly thankful for the Giambi acquisition. Getting Contreras was a shrewd move, especially after Aaron Cook went on the DL, Jon Garland was traded to the Dodgers, and Penny signed with the Giants. Giambi however energizes the Rockies in a unique way. He brings the flair (and clutch batting) that the Rockies need at this juncture of the season.
I was in attendance last Wednesday when Giambi hit his game-winning, go-ahead, two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning against the New York Mets. Witnessing this moment made my week. Not only did I pay a mere ten dollars to sit three rows behind first base and was allowed to bring a Chipotle burrito into the game, but I also saw firsthand how comfortable and confident Giambi is now that he is playing for the Rockies. Giambi still baffles and intimidates pitchers. Even at 38, Giambi lacks a “hole” for pitchers to throw at. He also has great eyesight, which allows him to draw plenty of walks and get on base even when he is not ripping lasers over Luis Castillo.
Giambi will devour NL pitchers one-by-one as the Rockies march into the playoffs. But more importantly, Rockies fans and players have already rallied around Giambi…and his epic handlebar mustache.
I myself headed straight to the dugout store after Giambi was named Player of the Game in an effort to purchase a Giambi jersey t-shirt. In the afterglow of Giambi’s late-game heroics, specifically his “graceful” slide into second base, I became a man on a mission. I planned to buy the shirt, immediately remove its sleeves, and then wear my new Giambi cut-off to the bars on Blake Street. Unfortunately, Rockies retail was not prepared to fulfill my request. The t-shirts were “on-order” and had yet to hit the shelves. I’m hoping to pick at least one up during the next homestand.
Rockies manager Jim Tracy calls Giambi “Russell Crowe.” This is one of the most creative and appropriate nicknames I’ve ever heard. Giambi is a gladiator. He beat cancer and battled his way back into the spotlight after admitting he used steroids. Furthermore, Giambi’s grizzled appearance and lumberjack forearms would make you believe he just might beat you down with a corded phone if he drank too much and you looked at him the wrong way (yes, Russell Crowe actually did this to a desk clerk at the Mercer Hotel in New York City).
But looks can be deceiving.
Giambi is soft spoken and wise. He is the perfect mold for these new-look Rockies. The Rockies needed a left-handed power stroke off the bench and Giambi needed a new home and a clean slate as he enters the twilight of his career. He deserves the success he is currently enjoying with the Rockies. Giambi’s previous achievements earned him a second chance in pinstripes, just like Crowe’s better roles influenced moviegoers to forget “A Good Year.” If Hollywood had given up on Crowe in 2006, which was not “a good year,” we never would have enjoyed “American Gangster” in 2007.
As I sit and watch the Rockies dismantle the Cincinnati Reds, I can only smile each time the camera zooms in on Juice Daddy. His iridescent shades are radical and his graying handlebar is charming. His grin remains childish. It is clear that this bear of a man still has something to prove. It is also obvious that his love of the game endures. He is calm, collected, and very cool. Above all else, Giambi is having fun again.
Giambi, not catcher Yorvit Torrealba, has just trotted over to the mound in an effort to settle the nerves of 21-year-old relief pitcher Jhoulys Chacin after his first three pitches registered as balls. This is why the Giambi experiment will work. He relishes his role on the Rockies, and he is cool enough that all the young guns will listen to him.
The Giambi acquisition made sense on paper and in theory several weeks ago when the Rockies sent Giambi to Colorado Springs. The box scores over the last ten days indicate that the Rockies front office is a clever bunch. Giambi has more than a little left in the tank, especially now that he faces NL pitchers everyday. He has singlehandedly won the Rockies two games since he joined the big league club, and the Oakland Athletics are paying the bulk of his salary. Now that’s “moneyball,” Billy Beane!
Moreover, the Rockies made a bold and somewhat historic statement by remaining so active before and after the trade deadline this season. Pursuing Garland and landing Giambi, Contreras, Betancourt, and Beimel shows how special a year this is for the Rockies. This organization has never been in as favorable a position as the one it currently occupies.
The front office went on a post-trade deadline mission because this time around they knew their team had more than a fighting chance. Dan O’Dowd and his staff neutralized specific holes in the Rockies lineup with a slew of calculated, post-trade deadline acquisitions. The front office has never been in the position to make such deals.
The Rockies were a good team in 2007. However, they were not a playoff threat until they went on a 20-game tear to close out the regular season. They entered the 2007 playoffs hot, but the Red Sox eventually exposed their lack of depth and talent. The 2007 World Series might have ended differently if the Rockies had been twenty games over .500 in August and acquired some extra pieces…
This year is different. The Rockies strung together months of consistent baseball for the first time in franchise history. Therefore, the front office sought to ensure that the team is deeply armed, offensively potent, and defensively solid as it embarks on its postseason journey. The fans continue to reap the rewards of the front office’s hard work. The Rockies are overflowing with young talent (just look at the plethora of outfielders) and the clubhouse is chock full of interesting story lines. We are privileged to follow a team as exciting and intriguing as the 2009 Rockies.
Aloha Pineapple! Aloha Jason!
Editor’s Note: September 15th
I’d like to inform everyone that the Huffington Post is coming to Denver! The Huffington Post will launch a Colorado-specific online publication on September 15th and I’ve been asked to regularly contribute as a sports/culture columnist. As a result, I’ve built a new site for myself at the url http://www.callitmilehigh.com, which will also launch on September 15th. The new site looks amazing. It will have an archive of all my dated columns, but it also boasts several new features, including an online store and a video archive. Thank you so much for your continued support over the last several months. The Huffington Post discovered me because all of you read what I have to say. Please tell your friends about my new site and the Colorado Huffington Post. I’ll continue to put my best work out there because I truly appreciate your readership. Thanks!