The Baseball Desert

Friday, February 11, 2005

When You Say Nothing At All

So Jason Giambi's much-touted press conference came and went, and when it was over, no-one was really any the wiser as to the facts of the case. There had been hopes that Giambi would clear up some of the rumours and mystery surrounding his leaked Grand Jury testimony, but alas, it wasn't to be. Instead, he spent the best part of 45 minutes apologising to the fans, to his team-mates and his ballclub, but refusing to go into the details of exactly what he was apologising for.

There have been a lot of takes on Giambi's non-disclosure, but ESPN's Jayson Stark seems to sum up the situation best:
[Giambi's] agent, Arn Tellem, said Thursday that while Giambi can't specifically acknowledge much of anything, it shouldn't be all that hard for people to connect the dots and get a true picture of exactly what Giambi is apologizing for. And, in fact, it's not.

But since Giambi can't say it with words, he needs to spend the rest of his life saying it with actions.

He needs to play baseball, and hit baseballs, like the Giambi of old, if that's still possible. He needs to be as well-behaved a citizen as any baseball player in this universe. He needs to stay out of Page Six in the Post. He needs to keep telling the truth on the witness stand, no matter what that entails. And he needs to prove he's worthy of the second chance the Yankees are giving him only because they have no other choice.
I'm torn on the Giambi issue, I really am. Though no-one has actually officially said it yet, it appears that he used banned substances to make him a bigger, better ballplayer. That makes him a cheat, and it becomes very hard to defend his position. However, Giambi has one redeeming feature: he allegedly told the truth to the Grand Jury. OK, as redeeming features go, telling the truth (under threat of sanctions) once you've been caught doing something illegal is not going to make anyone's top 40, but everything is relative. As Jayson Stark rightly points out,
Giambi didn't say he thought he was ingesting pine nuts, or sunscreen, or disinfectant. He didn't dance around the truth like the rest of the BALCO all-stars did (allegedly, of course). He took a deep breath and told his story. The whole story.
He didn't do it for money or publicity, either, as has been the case this week. Maybe he did it to protect himself, maybe he did it out of some twisted sense of honour, maybe he did it simply because he was headed down a dead-end street and this was the only possible way out. Whatever his reasons, I find myself condemning what he did, but at the same time hoping that he does get himself back on track. Rightly or wrongly, he's become Public Enemy No. 1 as far as performance-enhancing drugs are concerned (even if others were using them before him and are now trying to make a buck or two with their sad kiss-and-tell memoirs) and he's going to have to deal with that. He screwed up on the public stage, and will now have to try to repair the damage on that same public stage. Nothing is going to be easy any more for Giambi, and there's no reason it should be. One can but hope that he gets out out of the whole sordid mess in one piece.