MLB also should apologize for role in game's sorry state

May 27, 2007|By DAVID STEELE

With all the talking Jason Giambi has done over the years - to grand juries and to full-color newspapers and now to New York Yankees and Major League Baseball officials - you'd think by now he would have also spoken to the notorious Mitchell investigators. Or at least been put on their schedule.

That, you'd think, is why the Mitchell folks exist, and this seems to be a fastball down the middle for them. But it hasn't happened yet. Which probably tells you all you need to know about the priorities of all involved. And what aren't their priorities.

Everything that has happened since Giambi talked about taking "that stuff" in USA Today last week, points to his being punished for coming clean about steroids. Nothing indicates that the sport is examining the rest of Giambi's remarks - that baseball needs to apologize and atone for its actions.

Nothing gives the impression that it sees the value Giambi and his newfound honesty have to an investigative group that can't get players to talk to it and has little to work with outside of the documents from already-concluded court cases.

Maybe in the week or two that commissioner Bud Selig says will elapse before any decision is made from his meeting with Giambi last week, they can cut a deal that will allow Giambi to really tell what he knows. Not just about himself and his habits. About everybody. From players, coaches, trainers and clubhouse boys to owners and team and baseball officials.

A deal that will produce some depth, some truth, some answers, connected to that other part of Giambi's remarks.

A deal that probably - rightfully - should include full immunity. Or, at worst, partial immunity, with a fine or a short suspension.

Going the opposite way does nothing but scapegoat Giambi at the expense of all his enablers throughout the sport. The good news there is that Barry Bonds will finally have company. Gotta be tough for him to be the sole villain in all this, to be propped up as the Typhoid Mary of today's needle-ball. Well, skooch on over, Barry, here comes Jason. 'Bout time.

The bad news is that baseball still gets away with it, can still say, "It's just those two." Thus, they call him to the principal's office and shake their heads sorrowfully at the "leak" of Giambi's failed amphetamines test. It's surely a total coincidence, by the way, that since the ban on stimulants was put in place, the only players whose positive tests have become public are Giambi and Bonds. Confidentiality? That's for suckers.

Most annoying, though, is the Yankees' latest attempt to weasel out of their contract with Giambi, as if they are shocked to hear that he might have been using back in his Most Valuable Player days in Oakland.

It remains to be seen whether baseball will demand its pound of tattooed flesh from Giambi. It appears to be digging around for a rule that Giambi might have violated in his admission. At some point, chances are that they'll find one - the rule that forbids players from embarrassing the sport by acknowledging how complicit it is in the mess that made Giambi, and the rest of the game, rich and successful.

It's worth noting here that Giambi is no hero, only when compared to the suits trying to pin him down. He made his choices, and apparently only cared about how long he could get away with them. Yes, someone should have put up some resistance to him and his usage long ago, but he and his integrity should have been the first line of defense.

Just because he's being punished for his sudden spasm of honesty doesn't mean he shouldn't be punished at all. In fact, he ought to be grateful that there's someone else out there who not only is widely despised by media and fans, but also has foolishly kept the spotlight trained on himself by chasing a landmark home-run record.

Everybody in baseball, but especially the BALCO bunch (Giambi and Gary Sheffield, for example), ought to be shipping Bonds a thank-you case of champagne every month for the rest of their lives.

Still, as objectionable as Giambi is, it actually would be good for the game for him to take down as many people with him as possible. That's hard to do when the people who deserve to be taken down with him are the ones sitting in judgment of him.

If they can't take themselves out of the process, they should invite him in - with a Get Out of Jail Free Card.

If that ends up setting a potentially humiliating precedent, with fellow players lining up to rat out their peers in exchange for immunity, so be it. As for the players, if they run the risk of their own reputations being ruined, well, join the club. Giambi and Bonds have walked that path already, so what makes you so special?

No matter how bad that precedent is, it's better than the one being set now: take the admitted user and expel him from their midst, then get back to those exciting pennant races. And get back to grilling all those retired guys about what they used.

david.steele@baltsun.com

David Steele -- Points after

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