What’s the connection between the freckle-faced, gangly figure at far left and the vicious thug beside him?
One is that they’re both baseball players. The other is that they’re actually the same person. The kid is Jason Giambi, freshly drafted by the Oakland Athletics of the American League. The absurd Michelin Man-apparent is Jason Giambi, disgraced first baseman for the New York Yankees.
Giambi is on record, leaked from the proceedings of a California Grand Jury looking into the operations of the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), as the first active Major League ballplayer to admit using performance enhancing steroids. Not that his testimony surprised anyone, really. 1996 NL Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti, who died of a heart attack last fall at 41, once speculated that fifty per cent of major leaguers were sticking themselves with something. And Barry Bonds, currently the sport’s most statistically capable practicioner, recently admitted to having been administered a substance called “The Clear” by people associated with BALCO.
While Bonds also made the outrageous claim that he thought he was being pumped full of wholesome multivitamins, there really aren’t many in the worlds of baseball business and baseball fandom who buy the line that steroids aren’t rampant in the sport. Which is why Major League Baseball today made an attempt to rectify the problem.
After John McCain and other members of the US Congress started threatening to fiddle with baseball’s antitrust exemption, MLB decided to boost its random testing of players starting next season.
Players will be tested randomly. Those caught for a first time will receive a ten game suspension, with penalties being ramped up for subsequent infractions.
What’s not clear is whether baseball is actually going test, or at least follow through on punishing, its biggest stars should they be discovered shooting androstenedione in the clubhouse washroom. The foofarah surrounding the leaked Giambi testimony was huge, and confirmation of what most had long suspected badly damaged the sport’s reputation. Had Giambi not spent the better part of the last season on the injured list, and therefore out of the public consciousness, the fallout would have been much greater. It’s not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the sport might see fit to ‘out’ the odd middling third baseman (Corey Koskie, anyone?) once in a while while leaving Bonds-type characters to flirt with greatness and rake in the cash.