Jason Giambi was one of the MVPs of the first half of the 2002 season: .318/.430/.602 with 22 HR and 71 RBI.
I was pumped to see Giambi in the Home Run Derby, although in retrospect, it was a minature who's-who of the Steroid Era. Giambi, Arod (then with the Rangers), Paul Konerko, Torii Hunter, Barry Bonds, Richie Sexon, Lance Berkman and Sammy Sosa all participated.
Sosa led the first round with 12 homers, with Giambi in second with 11. Sosa clinched the NL spot in the final round with 5 homers, while Giambi and Konerko entered sudden death after tying at 6. Giambi hit a homer on the first swing, which Konerko could not match. Sosa batted first in the final round, hitting only 1 homer in ten swings; Giambi kept on swinging, finishing with 25 total homers.
The irony is never subtle:
Giambi said it bothered him that players who pounded homers were suspected of using steroids. He said steroid use among players was not as serious as had been suggested.
But in the moment, it was exciting to see Barry Bonds fall flat. And considering the monster shots Sosa hit earlier in the event (two of which flew clear out of Miller Park), Giambi's 7 homer performance in the final round seemed like the success of a dark horse. I loved Giambi's enthusiasm and his attitude throughout that season. I related to his desperate desire to be a Yankee; it humanized a man who often seemed to struggle with the Yankees' no-nonsense demeanor.
After that weekend, I always connected with Giambi, even as I learned the extent of his cheating.