When Barry Bonds broke the single-season home run record in 2001, most baseball fans knew he was on the juice. They had noticed his transformation from slender leadoff man to hulking power hitter. Not only that, but they noticed how he achieved such a mutation at such a relatively late stage of his career. It was pretty obvious, though it took a few years for anyone to do anything about it.
Another guy clearly on steroids at the time was Jason Giambi, then with the Oakland A’s. As we all know, he signed with the Yankees after the 2001 season. Giambi was outed for his grand jury testimony after the 2004 season, at which time the Yankees claimed they had no knowledge of his alleged steroid use. In fact, they knew so little of his steroid use that they thought it perfectly okay to remove any language referring to steroids from the guarantee of the contract. Yeah, that argument really holds up.
According to Jeff Pearlman’s new book, “The Rocket That Fell to Earth,” due in stores later this month, Brian Cashman seemed fully aware of the situation. Pearlman — he who wrote about Barry Bonds’s conversation in which he said he was going to use some hardcore stuff after the 1998 season — talked with a then-Yankee (or maybe a current Yankee?), who related this anecdote:
The book said that when Giambi went through a slump in the 2002 season, his first with the Yankees, Cashman was heard yelling at a television in the Yankees’ clubhouse during a game. Citing “one New York player,” the book said that Cashman screamed, “Jason, whatever you were taking in Oakland,” get back on it.
The book said that Cashman then added, “Please!”
Cashman, of course, denies the story, saying that Pearlman didn’t even bother to call him to confirm the quote. Pearlman owns up to that oversight, but stands by the story.
It’s tough not to believe Pearlman here, at least in that Cashman knew of Giambi’s steroid use prior to signing him (which was under directive from George Steinbrenner). Maybe the scene didn’t unfold exactly as told, but something similar might have happened.
It’s a funny scene, Cashman yelling at a televised Giambi to get back on the juice, because I’m sure many of us had similar sentiments at the time. The public outrage had not quite hit full swing, and there certainly weren’t any penalties at the time for players using. We knew players were using, and Giambi was one of the obvious cases. Which leads to an obvious conclusion: if we fans knew about Bonds, Giambi, and others using steroids, how could front offices not? The answer, of course, is that they did, but aren’t letting on more than they have to.