A column like this is why I’m a big fan of the New York Times’ William C. Rhoden: why is a former steroid user like Jason Giambi, someone who really didn’t fully admit he used (“stuff” is not a complete explanation), getting a campaign with fake mustaches to get the fans to vote him in for the last slot in the All-Star Game (which he lost to Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria) while the best hitter of his generation, Barry Bonds, waits for a team to call him?
Giambi’s half-hearted not-really-an-apology got him leeway and a way back in with the fans after a purgatory spent in unproductive baseball hell. The Yankees orchestrated an entire campaign to get him in the All-Star Game; hell, no one even brings up his steroid past any more. Yet Bonds’ impending perjury trial (which isn’t until next year) is enough to keep him from having a job this season.
Locker room distraction? Only because the press decides to make one out of him. That’s a self-fulfilling prophecy every time an analyst or reporter brings it up. Asshole? Probably, but it’s not like baseball has all good guys in its clubhouses. There are productive players who are probably complete dicks, yet they still are playing in the league.
The problem is, as Rhoden notes, that Bonds has not and will not prostrate himself before Bud Selig, the media, or anyone else: he says he has not used PEDs and is sticking to it. We are not comfortable with this. As a culture, we want penitence from athletes whom we believe have done wrong, we want them to be humble in ways we would imagine ourselves being in that position. Anything else upsets our sensibilities — and especially when it comes to the uppity black man.
Jason Giambi has been rehabilitated in the public eye. Every announcer is still in thrall of what Rick Ankiel can do in center field with his pitching arm; no one recalls his shipments ordered from Signature Pharmacy in Florida. Paul Byrd is having a sub-par season with the rest of the Cleveland Indians; he got a contract extension mere weeks after it came out that he got HGH from a dentist. Troy Glaus has had a pretty good season for a Cardinal team hanging around longer than anyone thought.
Oh, how soon we forget.