USA Today is reporting that baseball commissioner Bud Selig is leaning toward suspending Jason Giambi if the New York Yankees slugger doesn't agree to cooperate with former Sen. George Mitchell's investigation into steroid use.
Citing an anonymous high-ranking baseball official, Bob Nightengale writes that Selig wants a decision from Giambi by Tuesday.
The Mitchell investigation lacks subpoena power and no players are known to have cooperated with it. Selig's trying to use it as a stick to get Giambi to come clean. The problem with that is that Jason Giambi is already the come-cleanest player in the major leagues, and Selig's threat means he's about to get punished for it.
Giambi hasn't said much, but he has still been more open and honest about his steroid use than any other active player. He held his strange apology for something he wouldn't name but everybody knew what he was talking about press conference before the 2005 season, and last month he told Nightengale "I was wrong for doing that stuff."
"What we should have done a long time ago," Giambi said in that May 17 article, which is what has him in hot water now with Selig, "was stand up -- players, ownership, everybody -- and said: 'We made a mistake.'
"We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward ... Steroids and all of that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it."
That's it. That makes Jason Giambi the Deep Throat of the steroids era, at least among active players. Jose Canseco, who with each passing month looks more and more like the last honest man who ever swung a bat, is the Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Just in case you don't have a scorecard handy.
"Any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, no matter how casual, must be taken seriously," Selig said in a statement. "It is in the best interests of baseball for everyone, including players, to cooperate with Sen. Mitchell in his investigation so that Sen. Mitchell can provide me with a complete, thorough report."
In other words: If you tell the truth, we're going to put the boot in. Now tell the truth.
If Bud Selig and the baseball authorities want the truth about steroids, which is not something I believe Bud Selig and the baseball authorities want, they're not going to get it with a law-enforcement approach.
Giambi, wary of legal and professional prosecution and persecution, spoke in guarded tones but basically admitted that he took steroids, that it was a mistake, and that baseball and its players, collectively and individually, should have broken the silence about drug use in the game.
The result: He's facing suspension.
And the next player who feels like unburdening himself, to Mitchell or anyone else, will do what? Keep his fool mouth shut! How is this a good thing?
A big investigation by a senator-cop. Suspensions. How's that all working so far? Has baseball cleaned up its drug problem? Sure, we can all think that, until the next story breaks that shows us how much more widespread the drug problem is than we'd previously thought. That happens every six months or so.
Now, I admit those stories break because law enforcement -- the real kind, not Bud Selig's kangaroo justice system -- nabs somebody. But I haven't seen any evidence that any of it is doing anything other than educating us. And I think information would tend to flow a lot more freely if everyone with some truth to tell weren't afraid of being thrown in the hoosegow, whether literally or figuratively.
Except for assertions from various corners that the game has cleaned itself up, there's little to indicate that is the case. After all, there was no shortage of assertions that the game was clean during what we all assume was the height of the steroid era at the turn of the century.
A far more serious law-enforcement approach hasn't cleaned up bicycle racing or brought much truth to light in that sport. What it's done is put a lot of power in the hands of drug cops, who have reportedly abused it.
If baseball wants to get at some truth it needs to grant amnesty and set up a truth-telling commission. Maybe then we can get a better idea of the parameters of the drug problem. And maybe then we can start to think about good ways to fight that problem.
Until then, Bud Selig is just waving a stick around in the dark.
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