Jason Giambi injury outed

DMZ · September 3, 2004 at 6:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The New York Daily News is reporting that Giambi’s been afflicted with a pituitary tumor.

I post this because it touches on something we’ve talked about here and in comments, specifically relating to Michael Morse, his suspension, and the team’s unwillingness to talk about it. This isn’t at all the same issue, but I want to point out that Giambi had entirely valid reasons for not disclosing his condition:

The reason for his secrecy was simple, a source said: After testifying before a grand jury in the BALCO steroid-trafficking case and having to deny repeated rumors about steroid use, Giambi was worried that a pituitary tumor would make him guilty by association, according to a source.

Plus, his treatment course includes corticosteroids, and let’s be entirely honest — there are a lot of people who aren’t going to draw the fine distinction here between corticosteroids and the steroids they’ve already figured he was taking (in fact, how long before someone floats that this whole thing is a coverup for his steroid use, an excuse to get him a valid reason to test positive?) because of his BALCO connection.

It leaked anyway and, as one commenter’s suggested, it’s likely that Morse’s suspension may leak eventually as well. I just wanted to point out that in the context of medical issues, players and teams can have very good reasons to keep injuries or suspensions quiet.

Part of the problem is that I don’t know what Morse’s suspension was for, and I don’t want to know if I’m sworn to not discuss it in order to be let in on the secret. Without knowing, we don’t know if it’s something we should know:
If he’s suspended for some Eric Cyr-like incident, well, I think maybe fans have a reasonable expectation to know a player’s up on rape charges.
If he’s suspended for a positive drug test because he’s fighting addiction problems and is in treatment, and wants to keep that quiet, I think that’s fine.

You see the dilemma. If I’d known the nature of Giambi ‘s tumor, I wouldn’t have run it, for instance.


8 Responses to “Jason Giambi injury outed”

  1. tede on September 3rd, 2004 6:46 pm

    IIRC, the same pituitary problems sidelined Herman Munster after his rather sensational tryout with the Dodgers. 😉

    Lou Gehrig had to “out himself” with details of his ALS prognosis after the NY media printed rumors about him infecting the other Yanks and causing a team “slump”. And this was the 1939 Yanks probably the greatest team of all time. So nothing has changed except JG has a multi-year guaranteed contract to fall back on.

  2. Jim Thomsen on September 3rd, 2004 7:31 pm

    Derek, I agree, and yet, if Morse has been involved with illegal substances, that fits well within the public’s right to know by any legal or journalistic ethical standard. The extreme case is Rush Limbaugh and his addiction to painkillers … closer to this case is a situation I reported on several years ago as a prep sportswriter, when a high school team’s leading scorer was suspended for “violating team, school and district policy.” I got nowhere with official sources, but other credible ones told me the player had been caught with methamphetamine in his gym bag, and once I was able to get all my sources’ stories straight — as well as obtain the police report of the incident after filing a Freedom of Information Act request — I took it to the coach, the principal and the district superintendent and they admitted the incident and verified the player’s identity. I then went to the player and his parents, and they wound up spilling their guts. It made for a good story that got a community diaolgue going about teen drug use and parental/institutional denial. Sensationalistic? Maybe. I certainly was accused of it enough. But worthy of print and public discussion?

    Without question.

  3. matthew on September 3rd, 2004 7:36 pm

    I just woke up, and read this, then as I was scrolling down I saw this. Of course my still half-asleep brain freaked me out.

  4. Matt Williams on September 3rd, 2004 9:32 pm

    Jim blocking it with a high school student seems much more justified than with an adult.

    The court records of minors are sealed, and (other than extreme circumstances) names of minors comitting crimes, and crimes committed while under 18, are held back.

    Personally, being an opponant on the way the war on drugs is fought, I think it’s probably for the best that things are handled quietly. Keep the guy from playing until he’s clean, send him to rehab, and give him a chance to beat the addiction without becoming an absolute pariah. If an arrest was made that would be an entirely different matter, but if a problem is being addressed without police intervention…ok. Assuming he can clean himself up.

    Of course, we all know about Doc Ellis. Perhaps the team needs to try that route.

  5. N Jenkin on September 4th, 2004 6:40 am

    I wish reporters and their bevy of bosses would have the common sense and intellect to distinguish between actual news and information that appeals to the less appealing side of human nature.

    I also suspect that if this wasn’t a violation of HIPAA then somebody broke the rules of the Americans with Disabilities Act. There are actual laws in place to protect an individual’s medical information if he or she so chooses.

    No, the paper wasn’t and isn’t bound by those laws. But the worthless scumbag who gave the paper the info was and is. And I hope Giambi holds the system accountable.

    I do believe in a free press. But also a media that uses some kind of judgement. And that is in short supply especially in the part of the newsworld controlled by Mr. Murdoch and his band of brothers.

  6. JP Wood on September 4th, 2004 4:02 pm

    Matt at Grand Salami does a fine job of explaining the medical aspects of this affair and arguing convincingly for Giambi’s privacy and a one-way ticket to Hell for the ESPN staff who broke this story:

  7. Jim Thomsen on September 4th, 2004 6:38 pm

    By the way, the Mariner Magazine pre-game show reporter told listeners today on KOMO that Michael Morse’s suspension was due to a violation of baseball’s drug policy. Apparently he is in Peoria … do the Mariners keep a holding facility there?

  8. Janet on September 5th, 2004 4:44 pm

    I admit to some mixed feelings in the Giambi medical situation. On the one hand, the ESPN story was seemingly written in an inflammatory way to raise a spectre that they would have to admit has little or no basis in fact–that Giambi’s medical problem is tied to past steroid use. And that it indefensible “journalism”.

    But I can’t agree that it’s reasonable or smart for him to refuse to disclose the nature of the problem. Yeah, sure he’s got his “medical privacy”–there’s nothing that says that any ballplayer ever has to go public with any details of his medical status whatsoever. But there’s also nothing that says that people can’t or shouldn’t speculate in the absence of information, particularly when there has been a highly unusual refusal to provide a brief summary of his condition. Imagine, for example, if Carlos Guillen had decided for whatever reason that he would rather not have had people know about his tuberculosis diagnosis. Speculation would have run rampant, with every wild rumor or guess tried on for size. Now imagine that he was in the crosshairs of a major steroids investigation. Would it have been inaccurate to have speculated that his mystery ailment was in some way linked to steroids? Absolutely. But unfair or unreasonable of the public? I’m not so sure. If someone is asked “Have you ever used illegal drugs?” there are only two factual answers–“yes” or “no”. Answering, “I have my privacy and I’d rather not answer” is a response that is well within your rights to give; and inferring something from your refusal is equally within my rights. So I think that Giambi was well within his rights in refusing to disclose but that it is a public relations blunder, and one that didn’t have to be.

    Having said that, I have a completely inconsistent take on the Morse matter–largely because of his age and minor league status. The minor leagues are a time for learning what it takes to be a big leaguer away from the glare of the public spotlight–both in terms of baseball skills and in terms of life skills. In both cases, mistakes will happen, but for the same reason that I wouldn’t want the Seattle Times sports section to run a major story on the error-proneness of one of its low level minor leaguers, I don’t think it’s advisable to publicize their life-errors either. Most of us made our share growing up, and we were lucky enough not to have the media ready to pounce. These kids deserve the same chance to straighten up and fly right that the rest of us get naturally.

    So, whether it’s kicking your coach, smoking crack, having sex with underage kids, or doing ‘roids–it’s for the organization to decide whether the best response is a kick in the pants, counseling, or outright release. As a member of the public, I don’t feel I need to know.