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Diminished Skills & the '00 MVP

by George Bova

In 1921 a jury acquitted eight White Sox ballplayers of the charges they participated in a conspiracy to defraud the public by playing to lose the 1919 World Series.  Shortly thereafter these same ballplayers were banned for life from ever playing major league baseball again.  Unlike today, baseball had a real commissioner in 1921.

There is a lesson in this story for those who would find reasons not to punish self-confessed juiced ballplayers like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi.  Citing legal technicalities are no defense, nor is claiming "no controlling legal authority" either.  Baseball retroactively enforced new rules upon the game, created by new enforcers, in a manner completely apart from what the minimum levels the criminal code would stipulate.  We hope baseball handles the unfolding juicing scandal with similar firm resolve for truly it is in the best interest of baseball to do so.

Most Sox Fans know and trust the juicing frauds of the past few years will be outted by this scandal soon enough.  Many of us will take great pleasure as these false "stars" of the game are finally torn down.  One of them resides only eight miles north and it will be especially delicious to watch his defenders up in the press box and down in the stands eat crow.  We Sox Fans have a long memory and you can be sure WSI will be covering this story very closely.

The more immediate concern however is what this means for our White Sox.  With all the evidence that is still unrevealed, and all the confessions yet to come, and all the retroactive steps to be taken to clean baseball of the demented mess the owners and players have created for themselves the past ten seasons, one thing is already too damned clear.  Frank Thomas was robbed of the 2000 American League Most Valuable Player Award -- and it has costed him severely, both inside baseball's pecking order of star recognition and the pocketbook, too. 

It's time to make things right.

Self-confessed juicer Jason Giambi beat Frank Thomas by four first-place votes for the '00 MVP award.  The Juicer MVP beat Frank by 5 points in average (.333 to .328), but managed to only tie Frank for homers (43 each) and batted in six fewer runs (137 to 143).  In light of his confession, can there be any doubt steroids provided the Juicer MVP his winning margin?

Of course Giambi was a firstbasemen and Frank a designated hitter and the conventional wisdom held that many votes went to Giambi simply because he wore a glove on the field for half the game.  It was already a joke even before the '00 MVP voting how foolish Giambi looked standing at first base.  It was WSI that described Giambi as a "lumbering ox" who made a remarkable play to catch a pop foul behind first base at New Comiskey Park back in a memorable series in August, 2000. 

WSI wondered how a man that big and that oafish could run so fast?  Well... now we know, don't we Sox Fans?  He was juiced.

Maybe there are practical reasons why Jason Giambi can't be stripped of the fraudulent MVP award given him by unknowing sportswriters back in 2000.
Maybe there are practical reasons why Frank Thomas can't be retroactively recognized as MVP for having won the award without juicing.
And maybe there are practical reasons why baseball can't apologize to the non-juicing ballplayers for the harm done to them these past few years -- starting with Frank Thomas.

Most of all however, maybe it is time baseball put aside all the practical reasons why any of these steps aren't taken and consider the most practical reason of all why baseball must do all of these things:  it's in the best interest of baseball to be ahead of this scandal, not behind it.

And on a completely different level, is there any moral reason why the Juicer MVP doesn't offer Frank Thomas a personal apology for what he did?  Only Jason Giambi's inflated ego is preventing this from happening.  What lame excuse could any moral degenerate ever invent to claim baseball should protect such a false hero from the fate he dealt himself?  The Juicer MVP owes Thomas and baseball at least as much as this apology -- or face some truly awful consequences. 

Banishment is not a foreign word to those even acquitted of cheating in baseball.  On your knees, Mr. Giambi, and beg mercy.

And to those moral degenerates who still cannot fathom the harm of letting juicers like Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi keep their baseball glory -- or even the dead juicers whose drug abuse led them to an early grave, like 1996 N.L. MVP winner Ken Caminiti -- explain how to make right to Frank Thomas whose own financial security was wrecked because Jason Giambi juiced.

It was Frank Thomas who thought he was signing a contract to secure his long-term financial security, only to discover an out-clause placed there by Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf giving the Sox the option to invoke a "diminished skills" contingency if Frank no longer excelled at the sport.  And one of the performance hurdles Frank was required to meet was being named MVP.  If not for Giambi's juicing, Frank wins that precise award in runaway fashion in November, 2000.   Thus Jerry Reinsdorf is the defacto benefactor of Giambi's juicing -- every dollar saved on Thomas's salary a direct result of the Juicer MVP's cheating.

Jason Giambi owes Frank Thomas and baseball an apology.  But Jerry Reinsdorf owes Frank Thomas something, too. 

Who doubts it would be in the best interest of baseball for the Sox to do so?

It's time to make things right.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.  You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

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