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Could Giambi have juice to lead?

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Billy Witz

Billy Witz has contributed to The New York Times and covered a multitude of sporting events. A Tulane University grad, Witz has won Associated Press Sports Editor awards for investigative reporting, feature writing and game stories. He covered the Lakers' every move last season for FOX Sports West.

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If the Colorado Rockies step outside the box — and perhaps outside the warning track — and hire Jason Giambi as their manager, they can lay claim to having the most decorated skipper in baseball, at least when it comes to body art.

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And imagine the motivational techniques Giambi, a 40-year-old pinch hitter who will interview for the job, might be able to impart on a struggling player.

Giambi, who has long believed that it helps to feel sexy when he steps into the batter’s box, once passed around a golden thong to his Yankees teammates who were slumping, even convincing Derek Jeter to wear it when he was in a funk.

But here’s where hiring Giambi would really be interesting:

As baseball tries to distance itself from the steroid era — never mind the occasional Melky Cabrera … or Bartolo Colon … or diminished Alex Rodriguez — Giambi would become the first acknowledged user of performance-enhancing drugs to rise to a position of power in baseball, as either a manager or general manager.

You can look at this two ways.

One is that Giambi did his penance. After admitting to a grand jury in the BALCO case that he had used PEDs, Giambi apologized long ago and chided baseball for not being more proactive in keeping drugs out of the game.

The other is what type of message does this send — that using PEDs might not only allow you to sign a $120 million contract, but it won’t keep you from calling the shots (figuratively speaking) with a club, either?

Having this discussion now could provide a useful gauge for how far baseball, nearly five years after the Mitchell Report was issued, has moved on from the Steroid Era.

Certainly not far enough that it will help three of the most prominent names from that era — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa — get elected to the Hall of Fame when they appear on the ballot for the first time.

But if Giambi is hired by an organization that knows him well — assistant general manager Bill Geivett coached him at Long Beach State — it could be another sign that for those who have publicly acknowledged their PED use, and apologized for it, rather than defiantly and under oath protesting their innocence, there is some level of forgiveness.

Andy Pettitte has been welcomed back to the Yankees with a pat on the back, and even Alex Rodriguez has faced few consequences (other than some New York fans wishing he’d send his cousin out for more Boli during the playoffs) after making their mea culpas. Even Mark McGwire, though he has moved further from Hall of Fame induction with each passing year, has found the door to baseball opened for him in St. Louis, where he has served as hitting coach the past three seasons.

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All have offered apologies of varying degrees of sincerity and culpability, and only after they were confronted by damning testimony or evidence.

Of course, the consequences of the alternative were reinforced Wednesday when Lance Armstrong stepped down as the chairman of Livestrong, the cancer-fighting charity he founded, and Nike cut ties with him in the wake of last week’s United States Anti-Doping Agency report that contained a mountain of evidence suggesting he doped his way to seven Tour de France titles.

It doesn’t require a full deconstruction to know that this is what the collapse of an empire built on deception, denial and defiance looks like.

This is where Bonds and Clemens might take note, though it appears as if Clemens has already traveled far down the Armstrong road. (Maybe it’s just a Texas thing.)

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Baseball, to the naked eye, has changed considerably since the “loosey-goosey” era, as Rodriguez so aptly put it. It is no longer the Wild West of outsized home runs. That’s not to say that drug cheats have gone away. They have more than likely just gone underground, becoming more subtle and more sophisticated.

And attitudes have seemingly softened with those changes, where with a few apologetic words it is now as easy to shake off getting caught with PEDs as a bad at-bat.

How else to explain this idea of Giambi as a possible manager actually carrying some juice?

Tagged: Yankees, Rockies, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez

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