THE STRATEGIES were sound, the costs reasonable, the gestures noble, the risks low and the rewards potentially high. Each team made the right call.

There should be no regrets in Oakland for signing Jason Giambi, and none in San Francisco for signing Randy Johnson.

But these are not the farewell tours anybody hoped for. Not the A's, not the Giants, not their fans — and certainly neither of the players.

Johnson and Giambi take pride in their willingness to prepare, physically and mentally, for the demands of a 162-game schedule.

Each pushes himself hard, then harder. It's a part of the makeup. And each spent the first half of the season persuading a disobedient body to take the field on a regular basis.

Each wanted this to work, to avoid being the old guy who couldn't keep up with the kids. Each wanted to earn his money before easing into the rest of his life.

But how satisfying is a victory lap when it can't be completed? When the body won't allow it?

Johnson's retirement at the end of this season was presumed from the day he signed a one-year contract worth $8 million. The 6-foot-10 lefty was five wins away from 300. He'll turn 46 in September. He has undergone multiple back surgeries. This was last call for the "Big Unit."

The Livermore High product was coming home to the Bay Area to give thanks and to be thanked, to complete the circle of a marvelous career destined to earn him enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

And now, as he sits on the 60-day disabled list, a rotator cuff tear locking up his money shoulder, it is conceivable Johnson may have thrown his last pitch.

If so, he will have had a decent half-season (8-6, 4.81 ERA), having achieved his foremost personal goal when he earned his 300th win in June.

But he'll be another star who was not, in the end, able to go out on his feet.

Giambi, 38, also was coming home — to his original team. He was drafted by the A's in 1992, had his best and most enjoyable seasons here. After seven years in the fishbowl of New York, this was a familiar, comfortable place to land. A part of Jason never left Oakland, and he had hoped to get that part back.

He failed. Miserably. Limping through most of the first three months, Giambi last week was placed on the DL in hopes of getting some relief for a strained right quadriceps. His quads have been tender all season, as have his hamstrings.

The lack of leg drive undoubtedly is a factor in the worst season of Giambi's career. He has muscled out 11 homers and driven in 40 runs, but his .193 batting average is the worst in the majors for a regular.

It's a long, nasty fall for the guy who was voted AL MVP in 2000 and leveraged that season into a nine-figure contract with the Yankees.

Though neither Giambi nor Johnson is hinting in public that this could be the end, the whispers from their bodies are increasing in volume. What on earth could make either man believe he'd be any healthier or more productive in 2010?

Only the rarest athlete can script retirement. Jim Brown submitted a compact yet complete career and walked away while he still had legs, waving goodbye years before his temples grow a gray hair. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar retired 20 years ago, after a final season in which he received gifts and ovations at every NBA arena.

So it's unfair to blame the Giants or the A's.

The idea was to place Johnson No. 3 or No. 4 in the rotation and hopefully get six quality innings five times a month. The Giants also figured he would be a positive presence for youngsters Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, as well as take a bit of pressure off veteran Barry Zito. Johnson was, when he could.

Giambi was brought in with the hope he could get 400 at bats, hit 25 homers, drive in 80-90 runs, maintain a .350 or better on-base percentage — and be the clubhouse leader he was nearly a decade ago. Giambi never quite got there.

Even if one or both make it back this season, we're all closer to a definitive answer than we were four months ago. Reality is the shrewdest judge of all. It can't be fooled.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.