Of all the things that are different about the New York Yankees of the 2005 postseason, as opposed to last year's version -- a list that includes a future Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Randy Johnson, at the top of their rotation, and a 22-year-old rookie, Robinson Cano, at second base -- perhaps nothing is as big a surprise, or as welcome, as the return of first baseman Jason Giambi as an offensive force.
A year ago, after a lost 2004 season that saw him hampered by a pituitary-gland tumor, Giambi was left off the Yankees' postseason roster, making him little more than a ghost around their clubhouse. A tumultuous offseason followed, in which Giambi was embroiled in baseball's steroids scandal.
Critics wondered how effective Giambi could be without the steroids, and even the Yankees were not expecting much of Giambi when the 2005 season began, signing veteran free agent Tino Martinez as an insurance policy. But Giambi, following a slow start, amassed 32 homers, 87 RBI and a .271 batting average, working his way back to the middle of a formidable batting order.
"I think the last couple of years have been tough for Jason," Manager Joe Torre said before Game 2. "Last year was a nightmare for him, and all winter. So I think right now . . . he's probably enjoying himself more than anybody else."
It was Giambi's reemergence as a slugger that allowed Torre to make a critical lineup change, moving Alex Rodriguez to the No. 2 spot, behind leadoff man Derek Jeter.
"That, to me, was probably the biggest impact that's he made on this club," Torre said.
The Night Shark
With a free night in Chicago following Tuesday afternoon's 14-2 loss to the White Sox in Game 1, Red Sox Manager Terry Francona didn't walk the streets in a daze. He went swimming.
"Pretty exciting, huh?" he said.
"Not really," came the reply.
"It depends on what you think I look like in a Speedo," he continued. "I was crossing Michigan Avenue in shorts signing autographs; my bow legs were all over Michigan Avenue. It wasn't very good."
Sheinin reported from Anaheim, Calif., Carpenter from Chicago.