TAMPA, Fla. — In the competition among the three steroid stars, it's no contest so far. Jason Giambi is the standup, stand-alone winner.
Even if Giambi is only behaving so reasonably to save his hide and the $82 million he's got coming, he still deserves some slack and sympathy for being suitably apologetic, quasi-candid and unexpectedly introspective in these difficult days.
"I'm a man," Giambi said. "I've got big shoulders. I've always been under the microscope, anyway. It's gotten bigger, no doubt about that."
Giambi isn't perfect, but he's looking like Gandhi compared to his BALCO brethren, Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield, whose scandal-squelching strategies are totally loathsome and coincidentally similar even though they stopped speaking after BALCO broke. Both are fighting back with lies, obfuscation, finger pointing and intimidation.
Particularly in Sheffield's case, it's working. Sheffield, a man who's walked quite a few times if not as often as Bonds, is getting what amounts to the free pass of a lifetime.
Bonds deserves knocks for trotting out the oldest, lamest excuse, the blame-the-media defense, and he deserves even more hits for his nonsensical claims regarding the magical powers of flaxseed oil and supposed non-powers of steroids. Bonds threw everything at us on Wednesday. But unlike Sheffield, at least Bonds had enough class not to throw at any fellow players or teammates.
Giambi, already taking more heat than the other two BALCO boys, absorbed a double hit when former teammate Jose Canseco's best seller hit the stores and referred to Giambi as "the most obvious juicer in the game."
"I am an easier target than anybody else," Giambi said. "I barely even knew the guy."
If Bonds should be running second, it should be second to Sheffield, not to Giambi. Sheffield is hands down the biggest louse of this bunch.
Sheffield's attempt to push Giambi even farther under the bus was nothing short of vile. Giambi needs a hug now, which is what he's getting here from fans and other teammates, who continue to cheer his efforts to reclaim part of his name. "It's pretty humbling," Giambi said. "You never quite know in a situation like this. It makes you take a step back and think."
In any case, he certainly didn't deserve the sort of hypocritical body slam only a conscience-less person like Sheffield could deliver.
Everyone, including Sheffield, knows how sensitive Giambi is. Yet, Sheffield said Giambi has only himself to blame and that he himself is "not like Jason Giambi sitting here crying and saying it's unfair."
Coincidentally, that was the very day Sheffield's low-priced mouthpiece Rufus Williams was doing Sheffield's crying for him. "Gary feels the linkage between both (Sheffield and Giambi) is not fair because their cases are not related at all," Williams told Newsday.
Let's consider the ridiculousness of that statement for a moment.
Giambi and Sheffield are related in the sense that both cheated by using steroids and got caught. They only started to diverge after both were called in to testify. While Giambi gave honest testimony, Sheffield, according to the San Francisco Chronicle report, made the absurd claim he used steroids unknowingly.
As if there was any way in the world he didn't know the difference between "the cream" and Ben-Gay.
Giambi understood he was in trouble because .208-hitting cheaters are looked upon differently than MVP-caliber cheaters. So he apologized. Of course, it would have been better if Giambi told us what he was apologizing for, didn't hide behind some dubious claim prosecutors didn't want him talking about his testimony and admitted he was clamming up to preserve the considerable cash the Yankees owe him. But compared to Sheffield and Bonds, Giambi's a prince.
Giambi looks remorseful, humbled and human. As usual, Sheffield's just looking to blame others. First it was Bonds, now Giambi.
This is Sheffield's life. He's always claimed his numerous problems and run-ins are because of "guilt by association." He's been accused of various acts against ex-girlfriends and even once of leaving bullets with a threatening note on the doorstep of the mother of his children.
Yet, he always skates by, maybe because no one wants to receive the next bullet.