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Friday, February 11, 2005

Jason Giambi Apologizes

For what, though, is not clear.

Jason Giambi met the media yesterday to apologize. In what has become an American classic move, the fallen hero gets up before the bright lights and microphones, apologizes without making admissions, and then has his team's owner comment publicly on what a big man he is for making the apology.

It's an age-old strategy, and it comes in light of the new Jose Canseco book about steroid use in Major League Baseball. The strategy -- fall on your sword publicly, get your emotional New York fan base to forgive you and root you on to becoming Comeback Player of the Year and get them to help defend you against an onslaught of allegations that your battting records of the past decade are filled with Fluffernutter.

It's also well-timed, as the heat from Canseco's allegations only will increase. Canseco will appear on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, and a member of the Maris family has demanded that his allegations be investigated (although from the linked article it's unclear as to why).

After years of speculation, after years of hints, this story is rearing its very ugly head. On Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio yesterday morning, Mike Greenberg (a very positive guy, by the way) pointed out (perhaps with the help of his sports news cohort, Bob Picozzi) that the once-maligned single-season HR record of Roger Maris now might have a special glow as all three men who broke it -- Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have been discussed in connection with this particular scandal. In addition, while Canseco has named certain names publicly, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the book names additional names.

And the irony is that Maris received an awful reaction because a) he had the temerity to break Babe Ruth's record and b) he wasn't Mickey Mantle breaking the record. Today, right now, he'd be heralded as a much larger-than-life hero; he clearly deserved much better.

This whole situation will get more interesting by the day, and it will get much worse before it gets better. How will Major League Baseball react? How will current and former players react? Will anyone sue Canseco and his publisher for libel? What if it's Canseco's word against everyone else's? Does Canseco's bad reputation automatically mean that he's lying? Or could it mean that this is one time when he's right and everyone else is wrong? And what's motivating him to publish this book? And how will the baseball writers cover this? Will they ask the hard questions? Will anyone point out the differences in players numbers and physiques (i.e., suggesting that players might have stopped intense workouts, supplements or steroids) if they notice changes?

But back to Giambi, because he elected to speak publicly yesterday. There are two schools of thought. One is that he's anguishing over his public decline, that he's embarrassed about the attention that he's drawn from his grand jury testimony, and that he is sincere in his apologies about what he has put his team and his team's fans through and wants to move on. And it may be that what his agent, Arn Tellem, says is true -- that he cannot say more (the inference here is that he might jeopardize his standing under the law if he does). The second school of thought -- at the opposite end of the spectrum -- is that this is a transparent publicity stunt in which a selfish, overpaid athlete cannot bring himself to admit that he did something wrong. He's apologizing because his handlers and he sense that it's the American thing to do. No one likes to be hardbitten in his approach toward professional athletes, but you cannot blame the average fan if he is totally skeptical about baseball players and steroids. Because he has every right to be.

So, which one is it, Jason Giambi?

Were you a juicer and are your truly sorry for it?

Or, was juicing solely a private matter and were you just apologizing because your pollsters told you it was the best way to get the situation off your back (and perhaps your Yankee teammates, their front office and their fans to cover yours)?

The writers covering the press conference weren't totally sure.

And, until more comes out about this entire situation, neither will the fans be.


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