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I first heard about Bud Selig’s “request” of Jason Giambi during tonight’s Yankee game. Paul O’Neill, Joe Girardi and Michael Kay had a mildly critical reaction to what amounts to blackmail on the part of MLB’s commissioner. I was appalled.

If you haven’t heard, Allan Huber “Bud” Selig Jr., the sitting commissioner of baseball who will be remembered for the steroid era, the tied All Star Game, and interleague play, issued what amounts to an ultimatum to the Yankees’ troubled DH. Selig “asked” Giambi to speak with George Mitchell within two weeks. Mitchell was hired by Major League Baseball to investigate the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. Selig is going to postpone his ruling on a possible suspension in conjunction with remarks Giambi made to U.S.A. Today last month until after he speaks with Mitchell. Giambi’s cooperation with Mitchell will factor into the severity, or existence of any suspension.

The Mitchell investigation is rumored to be costing the league in the neighborhood of $2 million per month. It has been going on for 15 months now. Up to this point, zero active baseball players have talked to Mitchell. That’s $30 million worth of egg on Selig’s face. What he is doing to Giambi is nothing more than blackmail, it’s bullying, and at its most basic level it is abuse of power.

Selig is holding the threat of a suspension, an un-warranted suspension mind you, but a suspension that he has the power to levy, over the head of Giambi. He is compelling Giambi to cooperate, or risk his paycheck, and possibly his job altogether. Let’s ignore Selig’s motives for a moment, and talk about what a suspension would mean.

Selig would be rewriting history if he suspended Giambi for admitting he used steroids before the league had restrictions and testing practices in place. The comments Giambi made were presumably about his steroid use back in his Oakland days. He was apologizing for crimes committed before the laws had officially been written for Major League Baseball players.

Baseball’s first steroid policy was enacted in 2002. First time offenders were mandated to seek treatment. No suspensions were handed down under this policy. In 2005, baseball made the penalties more strict. The first offense would lead to a 10–game suspension, and so on. Alex Sanchez was the first Major League Player to be suspended for steroid use, on April 3, 2005.

In 2006, MLB made the penalties even more stiff. 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second offense, and a lifetime ban for a third offense. The book Game of Shadows essentially shamed Selig into ruling with an iron fist on performance-enhancing drug violations. This is when the Mitchell inquest began.

Now, Selig is threatening to suspend Giambi for breaking a rule that didn’t even exist when he broke it, and use the policy which has been created and modified twice since then to decide his punishment. This is not only immoral, but would most likely be considered illegal. Imagine if Selig decides to ban cortisone shots five years down the road. The shots are illegal now, if not obtained through a prescription, but what if they’re deemed “performance enhancing?” Using the logic Selig is trying to apply now, he could punish any player who admitted to receiving cortisone shots today five years from now. And use the guidelines of the future policy to decide their punishment.

This is a case of Selig using his power to intimidate Giambi. Just like Senator McCarthy did 53 years-ago. McCarthy thought he was doing the country a service, supposedly. I’m sure Selig thinks the same thing, if he ever thinks of anything other than his tarnished legacy. In both cases, ego-maniacs thought the ends would justify the means. A witchhunt is still a witchhunt, no matter what “greater good” you think you’re serving.

I will be shocked if Giambi speaks to Mitchell. (If I were him, I’d retire before I would give in to these outrageous conditions.) I will be even more shocked if the MLBPA doesn’t file a lawsuit to stop this from happening. Selig is threatening Giambi with an unlawful punishment for a non-existent infraction. He’s preying on the union’s hesitancy to do anything which may construe them as pro-steroids. He’s picking on the one player who has at least come close to taking responsibility for his actions. Selig wants, check that, Selig needs Giambi to name names. He’s spent $30 million to blow the lid off the steroid scandal. He’s a desperate man, in a desperate situation.

Selig is wielding potential suspensions in the same manner McCarthy wielded the blacklist. If this isn’t put to an end, we’ll be watching movies about Selig 20 years from now, and Pete Rose will be the least of his problems in the eyes of historians. Selig was a bad choice when he took over as commissioner while still having an ownership stake in the Brewers in his family (he turned the team over to his daughter), power and time have only made him worse. It’s time Selig stepped down, or was forced to resign. Bud Selig is more of a threat to the integrity of the game than steroids ever were.

Sources: Baseball Almanac (Bud Selig Profile, Steroid Suspensions)

by Brian on Jun 7 2007