Selig asks Giambi to speak with Mitchell
NEW YORK ” Jason Giambi got two messages on Wednesday.
One was from commissioner Bud Selig telling him to talk steroids with George Mitchell.
The other was from the players’ union telling him to hold off.
In the wake of Giambi’s recent apology for “doing that stuff,” Selig asked the New York Yankees star to cooperate with baseball’s steroids investigator within two weeks.
But Selig deferred a decision on whether to discipline Giambi for his remarks, saying how the slugger deals with the former Senate Majority Leader will be taken into account.
Selig’s statement might be interpreted by some players as a threat to punish Giambi and might make it harder for Mitchell’s staff to persuade players to cooperate.
“If this is the precedent that’s going to be set ” that if you do an interview and talk out against Major League Baseball and we don’t like your answers, we’re going to punish you even worse ” I think it’s a joke,” Yankees pitcher Mike Myers said.
If he complies, Giambi would become the first active player known to meet with Mitchell. No one can compel a player to cooperate with the 15-month-old probe, and the Major League Baseball Players Association would not commit to any meeting between Giambi and Mitchell.
“Jason will determine how to respond to the commissioner’s request … after consulting with MLBPA counsel and his own lawyer,” union general counsel Michael Weiner said.
Giambi is not on the Yankees’ road trip. His agent, Arn Tellem, was on a plane and couldn’t be reached for comment.
Selig had been deliberating since May 23, when Giambi met with lawyers from Major League Baseball.
“Any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, no matter how casual, must be taken seriously,” Selig said. “It is in the best interests of baseball for everyone, including players, to cooperate with Senator Mitchell in his investigation.
“Discipline for wrongdoing is important, but it is also important to create an environment so players can feel free to honestly and completely cooperate with this important investigation.”
Giambi told a federal grand jury in December 2003 that he used steroids and human growth hormone, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in December 2004. Before the start of spring training in 2005, the former AL MVP made repeated general apologies at a news conference but never used the word “steroids.”
The designated hitter, on the disabled list with a foot injury, told USA Today in comments published May 18: “I was wrong for doing that stuff.
“What we should have done a long time ago was stand up ” players, ownership, everybody ” and said: ‘We made a mistake,”‘ he said.
Mitchell wouldn’t discuss Selig’s statement, saying only: “This matter is being handled by the commissioner’s office.”
It is hard to envision an arbitrator upholding a decision to discipline Giambi. The union and management didn’t agree until September 2002 to ban performance-enhancing drugs, and penalties for a first offense didn’t start until 2005 unless a player was convicted of a crime or involved with sale or distribution of illegal substances.
“We do not believe that grounds exist for disciplining Jason Giambi based upon the newspaper article, anything which sprang from it, or his decision whether he will meet with Senator Mitchell,” Weiner said.
To his teammates, Giambi shouldn’t be punished for speaking his mind.
“I’m still trying to figure out what he’s in trouble for ” freedom of speech?” outfielder Johnny Damon said. “You can always go back and get someone in trouble for what they did in the past, whether it’s stealing a pack of gum or whatever.”
AP National Writer Nancy Armour and AP Sports Writer Andy Seligman in Chicago contributed to this report.
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