(left to right , Torre, Giambino, moments after the latter wrote a very large check)

Yesterday, MLB announced that Jason Giambi would not be subject to disciplinary action resulting from his somewhat vague apology to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (and subsequent claim that baseball “should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and gone forward”).

Prior to the Giambino being called on the carpet by the Commissioner’s office, I opined last June, “this does smack of retribution for the part-time player having the temerity to suggest the entire baseball industry owes the public an apology. The Commissioner is very found of citing the number of new stadiums that have been constructed while on his watch, but perhaps not so pleased that anyone ” especially a uniformed pleab like Giambi, might imply, however indirectly, that such cash cows were a byproduct of The Steroid Era.”

The New York Sun’s Tim Marchman, as you might expect, has a more clever take on Giambi’s interrogation, asking “If I stick one hand in a blender and the other in a garbage disposal, knowing that I’ll have to turn one of them on, should I be congratulated upon choosing the blender? Should I brandish the mangled stump around, while lauding my own wisdom?”

As the players’ union quickly pointed out, the authority under which Selig is legally able to do this, if we’re speaking charitably, is summoned from the penumbras and emanations of the sport’s collective bargaining agreement and drug policy. More realistically, he has no such powers at all. If he had fined or suspended Giambi, the union would have taken the case to arbitration, and they would have won. Still, Selig magnanimously offered Giambi a chance to avoid hassle, unpleasantness, and embarrassment if he would cooperate with Senator Mitchell’s ridiculous steroids investigation.If this happened in any other area of life, it would rightly be called blackmail. As is, it worked, and after making clear that he would not be snitching on anyone, Giambi took up the offer.

Thus we come to yesterday’s announcement that Giambi would not be fined and would not be suspended, a bit of non-news that even got its own press release, which tried to make Giambi out to be a stool pigeon. “Jason was frank and candid with Senator Mitchell,” Selig said, according to the release. “That and his impressive charitable endeavors convinced me it was unnecessary to take further action.”

“Impressive charitable endeavors”? The press release goes on to quote from a letter Selig wrote to Giambi, praising him for lavishing $100,000 and some of his valuable time to an anti-drug charity and two inner-city baseball programs run by Major League Baseball. The intent here is clear: Selig wants to show that while he chose not to fine or suspend Giambi, he was able to force him to cough up a lot of money in exchange for simply saying in veiled terms what everyone already knows, which is that he took steroids.

In all, this would seem to be a clear win for the commissioner; by essentially blackmailing a player, he was able to bend him to his will. It wasn’t. Selig just pressed the button on the blender.