Jason Giambi is a hypocritical steroid user who stole an American League MVP award, led the A’s to two undeserved playoff appearances and cheated his way to a $120 million contract with the New York Yankees.
But he’s right.
If there were any justice in the world, baseball would have kicked this guy to the curb like the losing dog of a first-round match at Michael Vick’s house.
But he’s right.
The A’s and Yankees should force him to repay every penny of his ill-gotten gains for cheating his teammates, his opponents, his fans and the game.
But make no mistake: He’s right.
Baseball does indeed owe its fans an enormous apology.
As part of an admission to USA Today that he once used illegal, performance-enhancing drugs, Giambi called out Major League Baseball for ignoring the obvious proliferation of steroids in the late 1990s. The "Chicks Dig the Long Ball" campaign was in full swing when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased Roger Maris in 1998 and no one was about to slam the brakes on the momentum the sport was enjoying by looking into the artificial enhancement question.
It wasn’t exactly an orchestrated effort, but the players, owners and commissioner were clearly on the same page, as Giambi admitted Friday:
"I was wrong for doing that stuff," he told USA Today. "What we should have done a long time ago 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."
It’s hard to imagine where the game would be today if baseball had done the right thing and instituted a steroid-testing policy years ago. The nightly power surges fueled by sluggers suddenly resembling professional wrestlers brought the game back from the brink of destruction after the strike-induced cancellation of the 1994 World Series. And the game likely wouldn’t have survived a slew of positive drug tests proving that the long-ballers were cheating.
Whether the names were Canseco, Caminiti and Palmeiro or McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, the damage to baseball’s credibility would have been severe. Fans were already disgusted by the indescribable display of greed on the part of the players; to expose them as frauds as well would likely have driven the paying customers away for good.
So baseball hid. The owners dutifully played the role of Colonel Klink, monacled yet blind to the obvious chicanery around them, while clubhouses were filled with rosters full of Sgt. Schultze’s, aware of everything yet proclaiming to "know nuuuthink!"
They played their parts well, as the game’s popularity surged. Admissions of steroid use by the likes of Jose Canseco, Ken Caminiti and Giambi came far too late to do any real damage, and with a new steroid policy in place, baseball officials can now say the past is the past and there’s nothing they can do to change it. They’re looking ahead and they’re proud of how they slammed the barn door shut — long after the horses had run out.
So Giambi is right — an apology is due. An apology to the future generations of fans who’ll never know who Roger Maris was. An apology to those who won’t know that the real all-time home run king was a dignified man named Hammerin’ Hank. An apology to all of us who believed in the illusions we watched and accepted the lies we were told.
But instead of the apology, what does Giambi offer? Justification: "That stuff didn’t help me hit home runs. I don’t care what people say, nothing is going to give you that gift of hitting a baseball."
Hey Jason, about that apology — how ’bout we start with yours?
Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at email@example.com.