Thursday, February 10, 2005
Updated: February 11, 10:39 AM ET
Duck and cover from Giambi
By Wayne Drehs
NEW YORK -- Deep in the bowels of The House That Ruth Built, down the hall from the room where Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig once dressed, the scene looked like that of a perp walk.
Three photographers huddled at the beginning of the Yankee striped hallway, their cameras raised, their eyes focused. Eleven more waited at the end of the gauntlet, killing the seconds until the man they were waiting for arrived.
Finally, at one minute before 2:00, the silver elevator doors opened and he emerged.
Yankees slugger Jason Giambi.
Instantly, bulbs started flashing, shutters started opening and Giambi started smiling. This was expected to be the day he would publicly confess. With Joe Torre and Brian Cashman by his side, he'd pull up a chair, look a select group of reporters straight in the eye, admit that he had used steroids and say he was sorry.
Only it never really happened. Wearing black shoes, black socks, black slacks, a black T-shirt and a black sport coat, Giambi spoke for over 40 minutes, but not once did he say the word steroids. Not once did he mutter the phrase "performance enhancing."
He apologized. Plenty. But he couldn't say what he was apologizing for. The closest he came? Saying that his federal grand jury testimony in December of 2003, when he reportedly admitted using steroids, was the truth.
That's it. The rest played like a broken record. "I can't get into specifics," Giambi said over and over again, much to the frustration of the 35 reporters in the room but with the approval of his agent, Arn Tellem.
Giambi, sitting in a folding chair with Tellem to his left and Torre and Cashman to his right, grew more and more restless by the minute, his face alternating between shades of beet red and ghostly white. With his legs crossed in front of him, he folded his hands so tightly in his lap that his knuckles were almost clear.
"I'm not that flexible to hold that knee up there by itself," Giambi said.
None of the other participants looked comfortable either, with Torre calling it one of his "strangest" days as a Yankee.
Giambi's song and dance didn't help. He told the fans he was sorry. He told the media he was sorry. He told his teammates he was sorry. When he showed up at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, he stopped to sign autographs. And he swore he's "working his butt off" so he can regain his status as an elite player and help the Yankees win the World Series.
But in between apologies and the commitment of hard work, the 40-minute session frustrated the hungry New York media, which got very little of what it was hoping for.
Giambi, when asked what he was apologizing for: "I can't get into specifics."
When asked what it was that he was taking "full responsibility" for: "I can't get into specifics."
When asked -- point blank -- if he used steroids: "That's something I can't talk about."
When asked why he couldn't talk about it: "I can't get into those specifics. I'm taking full responsibilities for my actions."
When asked what he told the grand jury: "I can't."
When asked why he used steroids: "I can't get into specifics. I apologize."
When asked if he understood how strange this all was, that he couldn't talk about what he was apologizing for: "I understand how the fans feel, how everybody feels. You guys have a job to do. But because of legal matters, I can't get into specifics."
The Yankees didn't have any answers either. Cashman said neither he nor any other member of Yankee management had asked Giambi about steroid use because "the answers we would have gotten are probably a lot like the ones you got today," he said.
It has been widely reported that Yankee management investigated ways to get out of Giambi's contract -- and the remaining $82 million he is owed -- due to his reported steroid admission. But doing so proved more challenging than they imagined. The only thing the Yankees have to go by is a newspaper story based on a source.
"The truth lies in sealed testimony that we can't access," Cashman said.
It made for a suspicious and uncomfortable setting. If Giambi would have admitted to the media that he used steroids, the Yankees may have had the ammo they needed to get out of his contract. But since he never admitted anything (other than his sealed testimony being true) they don't.
Neither Giambi, Tellem, nor Cashman would comment specifically if a contract issue was keeping Giambi quiet on Thursday.
"We assess every situation that's real and tangible," Cashman said.
"I can just repeat -- he's a New York Yankee. There's a lot of controversy around him now, but we'll do our best to find a way through it. That's the best I can give you."
Tellem himself grew testy when reporters kept pressing about the motivations behind Giambi's silence and, more importantly, why Giambi requested such a news conference in the first place.
"You can't ask him to describe every potential recourse. That's not fair to Jason," Tellem said. "You can't put every possible person that may have a legal issue on notice and notify them of potential legal issues. That's not part of the game here. The game is to protect Jason. He's not a lawyer. Believe me -- if it was up to him -- he'd tell you everything."
But it wasn't. And in the end, after Giambi dodged questions like Ali spending a night avoiding uppercuts, it felt more like kindergarten than a news conference. Connect the dots, follow the lines and you just might know what was going on. Maybe.
Tellem, sensing the media's impatience, played the role of teacher in the final minutes.
"He said he's sorry," Tellem said. "He said he told the truth and nothing but the truth. He said he's said things he's regretted. If you look, you can find the answers in a lot of the things he said. I think it's there. You may not have heard it exactly how you wanted it. But I think it's there."
When it was all said and done, Giambi stood up, turned back to Torre and said, "Have fun Skip."
Replied the Yankee manager, who had yet to meet with reporters: "Yeah. I think you opened them up. Thanks a lot."
|Giambi said he let down the fans, the media, the Yankees and his teammates.|
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Wayne.Drehs@espn3.com.