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|Jason Giambi's mustache is the secret to the Yanks' success.|
To celebrate would have been premature but, four days later, our hunch that Giambi was growing a legitimate, all-out mustache was confirmed by the New York Times:"Jason Giambi's new mustache is here to stay. Giambi said he wanted to look like Don Mattingly, who wore a mustache as a player in the 1980s when Giambi idolized him. 'Back in the 'Hit Man' days,' Giambi said, laughing."
Giambi wins the pennant! Giambi wins the pennant! Not to take anything away from the Yankees' excellent Bobby Abreu/Corey Lidle pre-deadline move, but Giambi's mustache is the best, most exciting in-season pickup the Yankees have made in years. At the same time ground was being broken for the new Yankee Stadium, new life was sprouting in the old Bronx ballyard. The emergence of the Giambi mustache is the cherry atop his career rejuvenation, and all but secures the Yanks' 27th world championship.It takes a brave man to wake up one morning and decide it's a good day to shave his entire face -- save the upper lip. This mustache hair cultivation is, without a doubt, a heroic effort by Giambi and his biggest contribution to the Yanks in his five seasons with the team. His Comeback Player of the Year award in 2005 was a good start -- but he was coming back from the ugly embarrassment of testifying before a grand jury in which he reportedly detailed his steroid usage, and from treatment of a pituitary tumor that one couldn't help but think was somehow related to those steroids. As the mustachioed Teddy Roosevelt once said, "I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well." Growing the 'stache confirms, once and for all, that Giambi has overcome the difficulties in his life and become a selfless team player who, in this one grooming tweak, has put himself in the running for team MVP -- maybe even league MVP. (Derek Jeter's recent unveiling of his own fragrance line automatically takes him out of contention and should call into question his captainship.) No longer is Giambi hoping to blend into the Yankee clubhouse and avoid the New York limelight -- he's taken his public lumps and now he's leading by prominent example. The mustache, unlike the masking action of a beard, calls attention to its wearer by stating confidently: I am furry and riding shotgun -- you got a problem with that? Numbers aren't everything in baseball; intangibles contribute to championships and can bump a player up from valuable to most valuable. Despite carrying a batting average that is decidedly un-MVP (.261), Giambi is among league leaders in RBIs (105), on-base percentage (.419), home runs (36), slugging percentage (.594), walks (98), and runs (82). In the least, if Giambi keeps his 'stache, he's got the Most Valuable Mustache (MVM) award clinched.
The Giambi mustache may turn out to be the most valuable Yankee mustache since Don Mattingly's and, undoubtedly, it will soon join a roster of historic Yankee mustaches. Here then are arguably the most important pinstriped mustaches, culled from Yankee rosters since 1976, the year Yankee Stadium reopened after renovation and the Yanks made their first postseason appearance since The Boss bought the team:
Mike Pagliarulo OUTFIELDERS
Oscar Gamble PITCHERS
Randy Johnson MANAGER
Not once has Mattingly uttered a negative word publicly about all those years, pre-Wild Card, when the Yanks fell short of winning the AL East by inches (or miles, as was the case in quite a few seasons). Not once has he complained about the Yankee pitching staffs in his era, anchored by the likes of octogenarian Phil Niekro and Ray Fontenot. Pitching wasn't a priority back in The Don's day.
In 2004, Mattingly's first year back full-time with the Yankees in uniform since 1995, the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the ALCS after being down 3-0. Oh yeah, and the Sox won the World Series for the first time since 1642. Doh! Hell freezing over in your first season as hitting coach has got to be tough. Last season, just before the Yanks lost to the Angels in the ALDS, mysteriously and without warning or fanfare, Donnie cut off his mustache. Hell had frozen over twice in less than a calendar year! Bad omen, I thought at the time. (Actually, I thought: What the f---!? But that's really neither here nor there.) And the Mattingly mustache has not reappeared since its axing last fall.
I believe shaving his mustache off last season was Mattingly's way of letting go of the past. The flecks of gray just under the 44-year-old Don of Baseball's nose ended any ongoing possibility -- albeit remote -- that he would ever pick up where he left off in 1995 and reclaim his roster spot.
Mattingly's sudden mustache removal finally makes sense -- while the gestation period took a while, the 'stache has reincarnated above the lip of Giambi. Granted, the Giambi 'stache looks like it could wind up more William Forsythe 'stache than Tom Selleck 'stache, but with lots of watering it could thrive to "Deadwood" Donnie magnitude. To this end, The G-Man is in luck, as he could swamp Vegas -- ironically, his water resource-deficient offseason home -- with perspiration.
This upcoming 2006 World Series will finally be Donnie's championship. Absent for the entire recent "dynasty," The Don still hungers for a ring. So does his doting tutee and restoration project, and (occasional) keeper of eternal Yankee first base flame, Jason Giambi. Giambi's mustache will symbolically, if not physically, win it for Donnie.
Besides the Mattingly homage, the Giambi mustache is important to the legacy and mission of the 2006 Yankees. Giambi's mustache has promoted a camaraderie which seems to have eluded Yankee teams of the past few years. Some of these multi-million dollar players actually appear to be friends.
|The Caveman must love sporting a little fuzz again.|
|Donnie Baseball may no longer be sporting a mustache, but Giambi's tribute to him has made all the difference.|
The Yankees face off against the Detroit Tigers this week, a team that is slumping yet still holds the best record in baseball. When matching up the two teams, the power of the Giambi 'stache will prove insurmountable as the Yankees will beat the Tigers at their own facial game. Last time the Tigers were in the World Series in 1984, they were propelled by some big-time 'staches: Kirk Gibson's, Chet Lemon's, Jack Morris' and Dan Petry's, among others. The Tigers also had a mustachioed TV private detective on their side. Giambi's 2006 'stache takes any steam out of Motown's newly inflated, downsized power plant. There's only so much weight Todd Jones' 'stache can carry. The Jones 'stache is also laden with just a bit too much irony. Unless you're a cowpoke, a Hell's Angel, a member of the Village People or Rod Beck, you're making a mockery of the mustache by cultivating irony. If you're going that route, you might as well play pro ball in a looks-old-but-it's-new Bob Seger Silver Bullet Band T-shirt, $200 jeans, big sunglasses and a pair of loud Pumas. The Yankees shot their official 2006 team photo on Aug. 14. In that photo, the Giambi mustache will be faint, at best. But come October, the Giambi 'stache will make its mark in the annals of baseball folklore. And after the Series victory, the follicles will, no doubt, be Lectric Shaved away to Cooperstown for their proper display -- drizzled atop Schilling's ketchup sock. Sound off to Page 2 here.