|The Steroid Farce Must Go On|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on June 27, 2007
Jason Giambi might be a hero.Â If he hadnât opened his mouth in an attempt to apologize for his actions, suggesting that baseball owed the fans an apology for the steroid era of baseball then the charade of ignoring it, denying it, or pretending that it never happened would have continued forever.Â Certainly neither the owners of baseball, represented by Commissioner Bud Selig, nor the MLBPA (the playerâs union) was going to step forward to help uncover the truth.Â
Any why would they?Â Baseball really doesnât want to look that deeply into steroids.Â It really doesnât want to expose the way that the owners, general managers and trainers looked the other way, or perhaps even assisted the players, when it came to illegal supplements. They all reveled in the long ball and its ability to fill stadiums from coast to coast.Â The Union has no interest in opening up the lives of players to scrutiny or anything that could challenge the validity of multimillion dollar contracts given to players based upon their seemingly superhuman production.Â
The Union, in fact, was been a staunch opponent of any kind of drug testing, drug policy, or penalty system for Major League Baseball and they still stand against it today.Â They have the financial interests of the players at heart and their own power at stake - the integrity of the game, the long term health of the players that have used steroids and the feelings of the American public are irrelevant in their thinking.Â
Thatâs why the investigation of former Senator George Mitchell has gone nowhere â it was designed not to.Â The Senator was given no power to force players to talk, no ability to suspend or punish those who refused, or lied, and no recourse other than to beg, plead or cajole anyone in baseball, past or present to talk to him in terms of the investigation.Â Yes, Major League Baseball made a big hoopla about his appointment and they publicly sowed their commitment to letting him take the investigation wherever it would go â because they knew it would go nowhere and it would get congress off of their back.
It would get nowhere because the Players Union would tell all of its members to stonewall and to not talk to the senator.Â It would stonewall because most former players, other than the Ken Caminitiâs and Jose Cansecoâs, who were trying to sell books, were ashamed to talk and afraid that it might jeopardize their chances at coaching, managing or even announcing jobs within baseball. They also faced a wall of peer pressure from other players, past and present who have all stepped up to decry those that were willing to rat out others like Jason Grimsley did.ÂÂ
So, what Senator Mitchell faced was a wall of impenetrable silence.Â
Yet no matter how many denials from Major League Baseball, the owners and the players or how they have tried to deny the steroid era, they havenât fooled anyone.Â Â Sure lawmakers have backed off of baseballâs drug problem as the elections have drawn near and they have been willing to wink at the billionaire owners and pretend Mitchellâs paper tiger investigation is a genuine attempt by baseball to clean up its act.Â
And everyone but the fans was content with that. The owners and their stooges didnât need to admit they looked the other way or encouraged steroids, the athletes didnât need to acknowledge they did them, and the managers, trainers, coaches and general managers could just shrug and say, âThere was a steroid problem?Â I never saw anything.âÂ The Players Union could continue to bury its head in the sand and tell the players to shut up â if it never came officially to light then they couldnât be hurt by it.Â And the fansâŚ well the fans would just be forced to live with the various lies of omission.Â
Enter Jason Giambi.Â Â With a few words, as he tried to clear his conscience and to say that he at least was sorry (or more cynically, to say he was sorry for being caught out) - âWhat we should have done a long time ago was stand up â players, ownership, everybody, and say âwe made a mistakeââ and âWe should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward.Â Steroids and all of that was a part of history, but it was a topic that everyone wanted to avoid.Â Nobody wanted to talk about it.â He forced the Commissionerâs office to take action because with that phrasing Giambi implied that those in charge of the sport, not just the athletes and the trainers were complicit in the use of steroids and the artificial home run numbers that came with them.Â
Had no one paid attention, had the story not found itself thrust into the public eye, Baseball could have ignored it.Â Had the stalled investigation of Senator Mitchell not been lurking in the ether, Baseball could have ignored it.Â But with public awareness, especially once again governmental awareness, Baseball couldnât afford to turn a blind eye.Â So the circus began once again.
Selig came forth with a statement indicating that they would have to consider what Jason Giambi said and determine the correct course of action.Â Not surprisingly Senator Mitchell decided he wanted to interview Giambi, and not surprisingly the MLBPA told Giambi not to speak to him.Â Â That put Baseball and Selig into a tough spot, to not make a strong statement by forcing Giambi to testify. It showed their weakness in the face of the MLBPA and implied that they really didnât want any form of the truth to come out of the Mitchell investigation.Â
With the artificial threat of a suspension (any first year law student would tell you that it probably couldnât be enforced), and a slightly stronger but still weak threat that the Yankees could possibly use Giambiâs statements to void the remainder of his contact (which they probably had to have done two years ago when he first admitted steroid use), they âforcedâ Giambi to agree to âtalkâ rather than testify for Senator Mitchell.Â
And that dear reader is a part of the farce.Â Lawyers from MLB and the MLBPA have met to discuss just what Giambi is allowed to be asked, what heâs allowed to talk about, and what the scope of his testimony can include.Â What happened to Mitchellâs investigation which could go where it may?Â Giambi doesnât have to (or isnât allowed to name names) and in fact he only has to talk about his own steroid use.Â
So, this is just another PR stunt designed to make baseball look like itâs doing something about cleaning house.Â It will offer no real revelations and no new evidence is likely to come to light.Â This whole farce is about public relations and instead of being a hero Jason Giambi is being turned into a pawn to toe the party line.Â
But why continue to hide the truth?Â No matter what such a probe revealed or proved, it wouldnât change anything in terms of the game in the past.Â No one is going to retroactively remove records from the book.Â World Series victories are not going to be taken away.Â Weâre not going to see asterisks put next to the names of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Ken Caminiti or any of the others that may have used steroids in the past â they all got a free pass since baseball didnât have a steroid policy back then.Â
In fact, in my opinion there are only four reasons that make sense as to why the whole story has not been allowed to come to light.Â The first is that MLB and the Owners fear a public relations backlash, which will hurt attendance or television contracts worse than what has been done already.Â Second being that the owners and or the Union and their staffs may afraid of criminal conspiracy charges of aiding and abetting a criminal activity (promoting and distributing steroids is still illegal) if the truth came to light. Â Third being that the MLBPA is concerned that contracts might be legally voided or players discriminated against in their next round of contract negotiations; and lastly but the most scary of all, that obscuring the truth about steroids isnât about the past at all, but about the present.