Biggest difference between the 20-something Jason Giambi who played in Oakland in the 1990s and the 38-year-old graybeard whose encore performance there resumes in earnest with the Athletics' home opener Friday night against Seattle?
Probably the yams.
"No more fast food runs," Athletics third baseman Eric Chavez says. "It's yams now. That's his big thing."
Like Popeye, Giambi yam what he yam in the twilight of his career.
"I've gotta stick around," says Giambi, whose fast-food drive-thru tales were legendary in his early days with the A's. "Those were the good old days. I'd get fast food and burn it off until it was all gone."
Whatever he's doing is working so far. When Giambi steps onto the Oakland Coliseum field for the first time since 2001 wearing the green and gold, he'll bring with him a .417 batting average and a .500 on-base percentage through three games. He's yet to have homered, and he has one RBI.
Booed lustily by the Bay Area fans whenever he'd return after signing as a free agent with the Yankees before the '02 season, the A's are expecting their home fans now to wrap Giambi in a giant, warm, standing-ovation hug during what undoubtedly will be one of baseball's emotional high points of the weekend.
"There's no doubt," says Chavez, one of Giambi's good friends on the team then -- and now.
"It's great," Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson, recovering from offseason surgery and a former teammate of Giambi's during those glory days in Oakland, said this spring. "I was happy to see him go back. I know the fans and the people in Oakland are really going to enjoy him.
"He's got a lot of years left to play, and hopefully the rest of them will be right there. He was a great teammate there for me. One of the best teammates I've ever had. He was as great a teammate as a superstar could be. He makes everyone feel important.
"He's got a heart of gold, and he's a likable guy. I've never met anybody that doesn't like him."
Hudson chuckled at the memory of Giambi's old penchant for junk food.
"I've never been through a drive-thru with him, but he's brought me some in the past, that's for sure," Hudson said. "In Oakland, he was the kind of guy who came into the clubhouse with a sack of McDonalds and everyone would get what they wanted."
Giambi's new diet is completely fat-free. According to www.nutritiondata.com, one cup of yam cubes (136 grams) contains 158 calories, five grams of dietary fiber, two grams of protein, 27 percent Vitamin C and zero grams of fat.
"Chavy was busting on Mark Ellis the other day, saying, 'Look at those guys -- they're in the trainer's room riding (exercise) bikes and eating yams," infielder Bobby Crosby says. "The next day, Chavy was mowing down some yams.
"Heck, I'll probably be doing it today."
Giambi brings 396 career home runs, 1,280 RBI and way shorter hair back to Oakland for his second tour, not to mention a stricter diet (thank goodness the tattoos haven't gone anywhere).
"Trust me," Giambi says. "I drive by McDonalds all the time and say, 'Oh, man. Those were the good old days.'"
Likes: Kansas City could have swept the White Sox this week, but for Kyle Farnsworth's first relief outing for his new team. ... Not that I wish bad things for the White Sox, because I don't -- I really like the team, manager Ozzie Guillen and the city -- but it's nice to see perennial doormats Kansas City, Cincinnati, Baltimore and even Pittsburgh get off to reasonable starts in the first week. ... Ichiro on his way back to the Seattle lineup soon. ... This GQ article on Lenny Dykstra. Shady, shady, shady. ... Mooning a train? Sounds good to me.
Dislikes: Sad, sad times in Anaheim for the Angels.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Days turn to minutes
"And minutes to memories
"Life sweeps away the dreams
"That we have planned
"You are young and you are the future
"So suck it up and tough it out
"And be the best you can"
-- John Mellencamp, Minutes to Memories