5.18.2007

Giambi tries, but he just doesn't get it

In what has to be the coincidence of coincidences given yesterday's post, admitted steroid user Jason Giambi is the subject of a pair of stories on steroid use this morning in the USA Today.

The story that's getting all the play is Giambi calling for baseball to apologize for allowing the steroid era to happen, which also includes his closest public admission of steroid use yet. (You'll remember that Giambi made his initial "apology" a couple of years ago.)

"I was wrong for doing that stuff," Giambi told USA TODAY on Wednesday before playing the Chicago White Sox. "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. … Steroids and all of that was a part of history. But it was a topic that everybody wanted to avoid. Nobody wanted to talk about it."

To me, though, the more interesting story is Giambi's defense of Bonds and his pursuit of the home run record -- something that seems to be gaining popularity in player circles.
Giambi won't say whether he believes Bonds ever took steroids or human growth hormone, but he's convinced that no drug is responsible for Bonds' extraordinary career.

"Barry is one of the greatest players, if not the greatest, I'll ever see play," says Giambi, who has hit 355 career home runs. "I know people have a tough time accepting it, but what he's doing is unbelievable. And I don't care what people say — nothing is going to give you that gift of hitting a baseball.

"It's the same thing for Barry. If it were that easy, how come you don't see anyone else doing what he has done?"
Although I believe Giambi's heart is in the right place, he is missing the point entirely.

It's not that steroids give you some kind of magical ability; I can take all the steroids I want, and I'm still not going to be a professional athlete. But I will be a bigger, faster, stronger version of myself that would be a better softball or pickup basketball player. That's why they call them "performance enhancing drugs": They take what you have and make it better.

And that's what happened with Bonds. He already was one of the most gifted athletes of our generation -- steroids made him better, especially at a point in his career when he should have been declining. Instead, his ability to hit a ball over the fence reached levels it never had been at any point in his career. Bonds is the only player in the HISTORY of ANY of our sports to become a better player in his late 30s than he was in his late 20s. THE ONLY ONE.

Yes, Giambi and Ortiz are correct: A player still has to hit a baseball, undoubtedly the most difficult task to accomplish in all of sports. Steroids cannot create a swing.

But when that swing, which already was one of the best in the game, is kept from its normal course of deterioration by drugs that make your muscles stronger, faster and more durable -- let's not forget, one of steroids' greatest qualities is the ability it gives a body to recover from strenuous activity (such as a baseball game) -- well, we all know what you get.

Barry Lamar Bonds, home run fraud.

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