USAToday: Giambi may face suspension if…

Here’s a lesson Bud Selig wants you to learn: If you tell the truth, you will be suspended. If you talk about the black mark on baseball’s past in an honest and frank way, your comments will be lorded above you and used against you unless you cooperate.

In a story bound to ruffle some feathers, mine included, Bob Nightengale of USAToday reports that Bud Selig will suspend Jason Giambi next week if the slugger does not cooperate with the Senator Mitchell’s spineless steroid witch hunt. The relevant parts follow:

Commissioner Bud Selig is heading toward suspending Jason Giambi next week if the New York Yankees slugger does not cooperate with former Sen. George Mitchell’s investigation on steroid use, according to a high-ranking Major League Baseball official.

The official, who talked with Selig but has not been granted permission to speak publicly because of ongoing talks, said Selig wants Giambi’s decision by Tuesday.

Now, let’s review: Jason Giambi has never failed a steroid test under MLB’s rules; he has never broken MLB’s drug policy. While I do not at all condone his use of steroids as detailed in the BALCO Grand Jury testimony and Game of Shadows, this is outrageous. Bud Selig wants to suspend Jason Giambi because he had the guts to come forward and discuss steroid use in baseball on the record.

Selig is trying to use Giambi’s comments to give some weight to what everyone already thinks is a spineless investigation. The Mitchell Investigation has floundered. It has no subpoena power and is instead relying on players to volunteer information. Well, the players have just learned a lesson: If you volunteer information to someone other than Mitchell, be prepared to face the consequences.

The Players Association will file a grievance in this case, and they would probably win such a case. Selig is about to start down a dangerous path that could threaten nearly a decade of labor peace in baseball. Let’s hope this doesn’t come to pass.

Giambi to the DL

We’ve been calling for it for weeks, and now it’s reality. Doctors found a “tear of the plantar fascia in his left foot.” He won’t even be checked out again for another three weeks.

No word yet on who will fill his role. Speculation early today was that Matt DeSalvo would be optioned back to AAA in favor of a reliever — likely Chris Britton. Does this change things? Would the Yankees consider carrying 13 pitchers to Fenway? It wouldn’t make much sense to me.

Right now, we’re looking at a handful of possibilities. I’ll list them in order of probability: Kevin Thompson, Andy Phillips, Shelly Duncan, Eric Duncan. Problem is, the latter three would have to be added to the 40-man roster. Though, that might not be a problem, since the team can likely stick Phil Hughes on the 60-day DL.

More as we hear it. Pete Abe speculates that this means Damon DHs more, meaning Melky in center. That would mean a KT call-up, since he’s the best option as a replacement outfielder. If Damon is going to continue playing the field, look for Phillips.

Update by Ben: And let me preemptively say that Bernie is not coming back. It’s not an option; it wouldn’t help the team; don’t even mention it.

Update by Joe: It’s Thompson.

Daily News: Giambi failed amphetamines test

Much like Barry Bonds before, Jason Giambi, according to reports in today’s Daily News, failed an amphetamines test last year. With the recent controversy over his comments in U.S.A. Today, this revelation means either Giambi was apologizing for failing this speed test or he’s in more trouble than we first thought. Meanwhile, yesterday, Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus, in a piece viewable for everyone, issued an eloquent appeal to MLB to leave the past in the past. Only time will tell what Giambi’s future on the Yanks or in baseball holds.

Update by Joe P.: I wanted to put this up yesterday, but I was running out the door when I heard it. Peter Gammons is reporting that the Daily News report isn’t necessarily true. Then again, since it was an unconfirmed report in the first place, we should have just assumed that.

You may have heard some nasty rumors

Some hack of a journalist has been spreading rumors about the Angels being interested in Jason Giambi. We here at River Ave. Blues try not to acknowledge this person, so his name will not get a mention. Just know that he probably made this up, as he has plenty of trade rumors in the past.

Some things to consider:
1) Giambi has a full no-trade clause. His option for 2009 is freaking insane — $22 million. That’s usually the condition of a player waiving his NTC, and that goes especially for a player like Giambi, who would be leaving a team for which he likes to play.

2) Who’s going to fill his role at DH?

3) The reported return — Chone Figgins and Jose Molina — is laughable, and that’s being generous. Even if Bill Stoneman uncharacteristically included a C prospect like Dustin Mosely, it’s still not worth it.

This is nonsense.

Update: You know, the last [unnamed hack] rumor I remember creating a swirl like this was Humberto Sanchez and Melky Cabrera for Dontrelle Wilis. Yeah. Mike remembers Spring Training 2005, when it was Cano, Wang, and Eric Duncan for Ben Sheets. So that’s how much stock you should put in this.

Giambi doesn’t want to play half a game

I heard this in a soundbyte by Jason Giambi on ESPN Radio this morning, so unfortunately I don’t have a link to provide. The long and short of it: Giambi is going to prepare this spring as if he’s a first baseman. Says him, it would make it easier to step into the role if forced to during the season. We all know Giambi, though; he’s not exactly going to be content riding the bench for all but his three to five at bats.

This leads me to a misconception among some Yankees fans (though I’m not sure how common): that Giambi is being pulled from first base because he’s a terrible defender. While that’s true, it’s certainly not the entire reason why Brian Cashman plans to use him as a DH this season.

Rather, Cashman’s plan revolves around Giambi’s health. He’s 36 years old, and his body is a bit older because of his steroid abuses. Playing out in the field — diving for the occasional ball out of his range (if you can call it range) and stretching for throws — is only going to expedite the breakdown of his body. There’s significant risk that if he’s out there four or five times a week, we’ll see a late season drop-off similar to 2006. With a hitter of Giambi’s caliber, there’s no reason to take that risk.

There are but two factors that stand in the way of this being a perfect move. First is the issue of Giambi’s splits. It is common knowledge that he has hit significantly better over his career while playing the field (.871 career OPS as a DH, 1.011 as a first baseman). There’s really no explanation for it beyond his comfort factor, and that may not even go a long way in this case. However, if he’s spending a full year at DH, it stands to reason that he’ll find his groove in that role and produce like he did as a first baseman.

The other factor is the platoon at first base. Doug Mientkiewicz was brought in to hit against right handers, and Andy Phillips and Josh Phelps are left to duel over the other side. Problems exist with both halves of the platoon. Minky has relatively even splits (.759 career OPS against righties, .780 against lefties), and actually hits for a tad more power against lefties (.400 career SLG vs. .420). If you plan to use him as your starting first baseman — which isn’t exactly a wise move in my opinion — there’s no reason to set him up with a platoon.

If Josh Phelps mans the other side, there won’t be much of a problem (.857 career OPS against lefties). Problem is, no one knows if he’ll impress enough to make the team, and if he does, his health comes with no guarantees. Beyond my opinion that Andy Phillips has no business on the Yankees roster, he has terrible numbers against lefties (a career .489 OPS against lefties, compared to .746 against righties). To place him in a platoon would be beyond foolish; it would actually make the team worse.

So what if Phelps doesn’t stay healthy or doesn’t play well enough to make the team? I suppose Andy Phillips could serve as the backup first baseman, but there are certainly better options. Why not let Giambi serve as the backup and play once a week in the field? That will keep him a bit happier, since he’ll get some playing time out there. And it will allow the Yankees the flexibility of an extra roster spot which they can use on someone who impresses in camp (Kevin Thompson and Bronson Sardinha are the guys I’d like to see). Of course, this path would give cause to sentimental fans to scream: “Give the spot to Bernie!” You could do worse, I suppose, but the team should be concentrating more on finding filler cogs in its minor league system.

This, of course, is all contingent on how things play out this spring. The point is, though, that the Yankees would be wise to let Giambi take some fielding practice in Spring Training. Lord knows, we don’t want to see Andy Phillips’ name on the Opening Day roster in any kind of platoon scenario.

Image courtsey John Iacono/SI