How dare USA Today’s Bob Nightengale take advantage of two young, naive players, both of whom posessing no prior experience when dealing with the news media?  The New York Daily News’ Bob Raissman describes the latest affront to journalistic integrity.

Two recent incidents, in which players’ quotes resulted in disciplinary action taken against them, have prompted the Major League Baseball Players Association to condemn the reporting tactics of USA Today baseball columnist Bob Nightengale.

In both cases – Jason Giambi admitting he used steroids, and Gary Sheffield labeling baseball commissioner Bud Selig a liar and grandstander over Barry Bonds and the steroids issue – the stories created an uproar and both players were punished with fines and could be suspended. But were the players really talking on the record?

Baseball sources said the union, after discussing the circumstances of the interviews with Giambi and Sheffield, concluded the two players were misled by Nightengale.

“The union is not saying Nightengale is violating off-the-record rules,” the source said.

“However, the union is saying he has a way of discussing matters with players, which leads them to believe the conversations are not for publication.”

In an interview with the Daily News, Nightengale said he did not mislead either player and was entirely comfortable with the way he handled both interviews. Nightengale added no one from the union had contacted him to discuss any player complaints.

“(I had) no complaint at all from Jason (Giambi),” Nightengale said. “I did the interview in a hallway between games of a doubleheader. Jason knew exactly what I was talking about.

“With Gary (Sheffield), his agent (Rufus Williams) called (after the Selig story ran) and said he was trying to put Sheff in a positive light and didn’t want any negative things in stories anymore after the Joe Torre stuff. That was it.”

One source pointed out: “It’s not unprecedented for the union to recommend players to stay away from a particular reporter, a particular (media) institution or (media) entity.”