Jason Giambi addressed the media yesterday at Yankee Stadium and, in case you haven't heard yet, apologized for his behavior without specifically admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs. Tyler Kepner has a good write-up of the strange scene this morning in the New York Times. Joe Torre and Brian Cashman sat next to Giambi as he answered questions from reporters. Cashman told the Times:
"The biggest thing that I'll be watching is not what takes place on the field," General Manager Brian Cashman said. "It's how he handles the process. It's going to be a journey, and it's going to be a long journey. Today will not end it. He knows that and we know that."
Joe Torre added that Giambi will be the biggest question mark facing the team this spring:
"The effort will obviously be there," Torre said of Giambi. "But I think we're all curious to see how he's going to recover from what he went through. He certainly looks healthier than he did last year."
..."He's going to have to understand that even in his home ballpark, on a regular basis, he may not get the response he wants to get," Torre said. "I think he has to be tougher. In being human, there's only so much you can do to say, 'I understand,' and go on about your business. It's something he's going to have to condition himself to do. But when he looks around, he's going to see a lot of support."
As Murray Chass reports, regardless of what Giambi says or does not say, it is highly unlikely that the Yankees will ever be able void his contract:
A person with knowledge of the contract said that before they signed off on Giambi's seven-year, $120 million deal, the Yankees acquiesced to his request and removed all references to steroids from the guarantee language routinely included in contracts.
The Yankees were not innocents in this matter. They didn't say to themselves: Delete references to steroid use? Well, all right if you insist, but why would you want us to do that?
They wanted Giambi badly enough that they relinquished the right to suspend him or stop payment on the contract or terminate the contract or convert it into a nonguaranteed contract if he was found to use steroids. No other words were deleted from that paragraph of the contract, the person said.
It's hard to tell exactly how Giambi let down the press. I'm a member of the press; I'm not offended or disappointed or surprised by his drug use. He didn't harm me in any way.
If anyone has harmed the press, it's been the press, which offered nothing more than innuendo as ballplayers swelled grotesquely in the 1990s. Our job is to cover baseball; the job of a ballplayer is to play it. Players owe writers nothing but the common decency and respect any person owes another. If Jason Giambi can avoid disappointment when I put whiskey in my body, I can avoid disappointment when he puts testosterone in his.
...The accounts Giambi has to settle are with his own conscience and his fellow athletes - not with you, not with me, and not with George Steinbrenner. These are not matters for press conferences, and it's unfortunate that the Yankees would trot the man out in a deeply silly attempt to pre-empt what will be a richly deserved storm of bad publicity for their organization.
In speaking yesterday, Giambi has already done more than he needs to do. It speaks well of him. Apologies are at best more than the rest of us really need, and at worst more than we deserve.
For Giambi, it was an understandably uncomfortable start to his season. There is also little doubt that it will get worse for him before it gets better. The route to salvation, at least as far as he and the Yankees are concerned, lies in how he performs on the field.