Thursday, June 07, 2007

Toothless

The commissioner of baseball has decided to make his stand on the steroids. He has demanded that Jason Giambi submit to questioning from the Mitchell investigation. To date, no active player has agreed to submit to questioning and the players association has already told it's members that they should not cooperate with the investigation. The reports are that Bud Selig will seek to suspend Giambi if he does not cooperate with the Mitchell investigation. While there has been no response from Giambi to date, this is apparently headed toward a spaghetti western showdown. It's just a matter of who is going to blink first.

I find it fairly amusing that the commissioner is now choosing to take a hard line with a player who has already admitted to taking steroids in front of a Grand Jury. The only reason that Giambi is in this position is because he called out baseball for ignoring the problem for so long. If Giambi refuses to cooperate and the commissioner then suspends him, the players association will, without a doubt, file a complaint. It would then head to a arbitrator and I can't really see a scenario where Giambi would be forced to comply. First of all there are laws against self incrimination. The Mitchell investigation has no power to grant immunity from prosecution, so therefore they would have no power to compel Giambi to incriminate himself or others. If the commissioner were to push this point, I can only see him coming out on the short end of the decision.

There is the chance that a compromise could be reached and Giambi could agree to talk about his steroid use before the ban was in place. This is a sensitive area for Giambi. If he admits to taking steroids while playing for the Yankees, he could open up the door for the team to void his contract. That means that if a compromise is reached the parameters would have to be fairly well defined. Personally I think that there are just too many potholes for Giambi if he were to testify. It makes a lot more sense for Giambi to just refuse to testify. I'm not a lawyer, but I did play one on TV once and if I were advising Giambi that's what I would tell him to do.

The Commissioner has wide ranging powers, but he is hired by the owners to look after their interests. His power over the players is limited. The players also have, what may very well be, the most powerful union in the country on their side. To force a confrontation like this is a sure way to expose the Mitchell investigation for the toothless and futile undertaking that it is. Bud has to know that he doesn't have the power to compel a player to admit to illegal activities in front of a civilian board of review. The Mitchell investigation must really be getting nowhere if feels that this is the only thing that he can do. Perhaps after losing this confrontation he will just call an end to the investigation. Apparently it's costing about $2 million a month and hasn't turned up much. The only people associated with the players that the investigation has gotten testimony from is managers and coaches. And while they may be able to tell them about seeing players taking steroids (although I doubt that very much), it's still not the kind of testimony that you could take to court. Managers and coaches are also about protecting their own self interest. Tony LaRussa still refuses to admit that Mark McGwire took steroids, even when all the evidence points in the other direction. Perhaps all Selig wants to do is get this investigation over with and he is just using the Giambi issue to force this all to a head.

It's just sad that the Commissioner and owners would go this far in order to try and deny that they had any idea that steroids were a problem in their sport.

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