Jason Giambi’s career quietly winds down

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Good story at SI by Chris Ballard about a dude who I bet most casual fans would guess quit playing a couple of years ago.  Jason Giambi: former MVP, former $23 million a year player, former steroids poster boy.

For the past three years he’s been a pinch hitter in Colorado. He had a nice blip of a season in 2011, but it’s winding down now. And Giambi, who has long been on-the-record contrite about his and the game’s notorious steroids years, is waxing reflective:

And yet here he is. Now, at 41, Giambi has an 11-month-old daughter named London Shay. When I asked what he’d like people to say about her father when she’s 10 years old, he stopped for a moment. “Wow … I would love for them to say, ‘One time in his career, he made a mistake but he worked really hard and got his honor back and he was honest,'” Giambi said. “I think that’s the most important [thing]. I’ve been on top of the world in this game, I’ve won the most valuable player, and I’ve been in the gutter in this game. But I’m still here.”

Not many former superstars continue on as role players after their elite skills have faded into average ones. Giambi says it’s about simply loving the game. Part of me wonders if there isn’t some aspect of penance to it, even if it’s a subconscious thing. Like Giambi feels as though he owes the game yeoman’s work after his tainted time at the top.

Either way, Giambi leaving the game, as it seems he’s poised to, sort of feels like the end of an era.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.