Commissioner Bud Selig said on Wednesday that he wants Jason Giambi to meet with former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell during the next two weeks before determining whether to discipline the Yankees first baseman regarding statements about his alleged steroid use, which Giambi made to a newspaper last month. "It is in the best interests of baseball for everyone, including players, to cooperate with Sen. Mitchell in his investigation so that Sen. Mitchell can provide me with a complete, thorough report," Selig said. In response, a lawyer for the Major League Baseball Players Association said that Giambi would discuss the matter with appropriate legal counsel, but there were no grounds "for disciplining Jason Giambi based upon the newspaper article, anything which sprang from it, or his decision whether he will meet with Sen. Mitchell."
The smaller issue is the repercussions from a statement that Giambi made on May 18 to USA Today in which he vaguely talked about the matter, saying he shouldn't have used that "stuff." He also chastised MLB by saying: "What we should have done a long time ago was stand up - players, ownership, everybody - and said: 'We made a mistake.' We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward." Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Torre immediately distanced themselves from Giambi's comments, and on Wednesday, the club released a statement through its outside publicist backing Selig and offering no other comment. Giambi has since been interviewed by Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources, and is currently on the disabled list with a foot injury. The larger issue, though, is Mitchell's ongoing investigation into MLB's so-called steroid era. Thus far, he's received little cooperation from either the union or the individual current players, who have all declined to meet with Mitchell's committee. Wednesday's statement from general counsel Michael Weiner regarding Giambi's situation echoed the same advice the union has been giving all the players. "Jason will determine how to respond to the Commissioner's request that he meet with Sen. Mitchell after consulting with MLBPA counsel and his own lawyer," Weiner said. "Such decisions are for the individual player to make, after receiving appropriate legal advice." Mitchell was charged with investigating and submitting a report to MLB about the steroid issue 15 months ago. But there's increasing unease that the report will be too one-sided because Mitchell hasn't received any cooperation from the players. His committee doesn't have the authority to subpoena documents or compel testimony. The primary reason for that stance is the ongoing federal investigation into steroid use in sports that began with the raid of the San Mateo, Ca.-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) in 2003 and has since grown tentacles all over the country. Though Mitchell can't compel testimony, the feds certainly have the ability to legally obtain any statements made by the players to the committee. That fact became evident when the courts allowed the federal government to subpoena the 2003 drug tests administered to the players, despite a privacy clause in MLB's drug program negotiated with the union. That case is currently on appeal. Under the auspices of that policy, a player can't be sanctioned unless he fails a drug test, although MLB certainly has tried before. Last year, Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley was suspended for 50 games after his house was raided, human growth hormone (HGH) was confiscated and he admitted in an affidavit that he used both HGH and steroids. Grimsley, though, retired before the suspension was meted out and for that reason the union never grieved it. In Giambi's case, Selig seems to be sending a message that MLB is willing to consider discipline even though Giambi has never failed a drug test. There's also been no determination what specific "stuff" Giambi was talking about, what year he used that stuff, and whether that time frame fell under the auspices of the drug program, which was instituted for the first time at the Major League level with survey testing in 2003. Giambi's first year with the Yankees was 2002. "Any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, no matter how casual, must be taken seriously," Selig said. "Discipline for wrongdoing is important, but it is also important to create an environment so players can feel free to honestly and completely cooperate with this important investigation."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.