|BLUM ON BASEBALL: For Selig, image appears to be priority|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 06 June 2007 21:47|
He won't say whether he'll be at the ballpark for Barry Bonds' 756th home run and he won't say whether he'll discipline Jason Giambi.
Giambi's cooperation with George Mitchell's steroids investigation should have nothing to do with where the New York Yankees star can be punished for what many interpreted as an admission of steroids use.
Then again, in all likelihood Selig can't do anything to Giambi. Even if the baseball commissioner were to suspend or fine Giambi, chances are any penalty would be overturned by an arbitrator if the players' union challenged it with a grievance.
For now, Selig has chosen appearance over substance.
``To say either help us or you're suspended? I don't know,'' said Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, a senior member of the union. ``Bud thinks he can do whatever he wants.''
Giambi testified before a federal grand jury in 2003 in the BALCO investigation, so any information he provides to Mitchell potentially could be subpoenaed by a federal prosecutor and compared with his testimony for inconsistencies. It wouldn't be a smart legal strategy for Giambi to cooperate with Mitchell.
Giambi was quoted in USA Today last month as apologizing for ``doing that stuff,'' an inexact admission with no time frame.
What might Selig want to penalize? Giambi's decision to sort of admit publicly what he pretty much made clear by his evasions at a news conference two years ago? Giambi's lack of cooperation?
Discipline isn't merited on either count, the players' association said.
Baseball and the union didn't ban steroids until September 2002, and until 2005 the only penalties for a first offense stemmed from either a criminal conviction for use, or for the sale or distribution of prohibited substances.
Giambi testified in December 2003, so it appears he hasn't acknowledged doing anything that would merit discipline under the labor contracts in place at the time.
And under a 1980 ruling involving Texas pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, it doesn't seem Selig can discipline Giambi for not cooperating. Jenkins was arrested on a drug charge in Canada and was suspended after he refused to answer questions from aides to commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
Arbitrator Raymond Goetz tossed aside Kuhn's suspension, saying it didn't meet the ``just cause'' standard contained in baseball's collective-bargaining agreement.
``As a practical matter, the commissioner was compelling Jenkins to jeopardize his defense in court,'' Goetz wrote. ``While this may not actually violate any principles of constitutional or criminal law, it offends the moral values of our society on which the legal privilege against self-incrimination is based.''
Selig also has sent a mixed message to the very same players Mitchell has asked for cooperation: While I want you to talk about the past, public statements might be met with discipline unless you give Mitchell's staff what they want.
Giambi's amorphous admission has brought him more grief than praise.
``I'm still trying to figure out what he's in trouble for: freedom of speech?'' Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon said.
The players' union told players last month that if they are approached by investigators, they should seek legal counsel before doing anything.
``What are you suspending him for? That's the biggest question right now. What are you going to fine him for? Because he did an interview?'' Yankees pitcher Mike Myers said. ``Then players will stop doing interviews and Selig doesn't want that.''
Giambi gets hassled and Selig looks inert. Mitchell's law firm, which probably is billing millions of dollars, is the only winner.
And in the end, it's the fans who pay.