NEW YORK -- Jason Giambi met the media on Thursday, speaking publicly for the first time about the steroids controversy that has surrounded him for more than two months.
Giambi never mentioned the word "steroids" throughout the 40-minute session, which was held in the auxiliary clubhouse at Yankee Stadium in front of about 40 reporters.
Instead, he apologized for the distraction he has caused over the past year, insisted that he told the federal grand jury the whole truth in December 2003 and said that he plans on reestablishing himself as one of the premier hitters in baseball.
This past December, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Giambi's testimony to the grand jury included an admission that he had taken steroids and used human growth hormone.
"I haven't read the Chronicle, and I can't comment on the Chronicle," Giambi said, "but I can tell you right now that when I went into that grand jury, I told the truth."
Giambi sat at the front of the room, flanked by his agent, Arn Tellem, Yankees manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman. Wearing a black striped suit with a black shirt underneath, the slugger had watery eyes as he got things going with some candid opening remarks.
"First, I want to thank everybody for coming. I appreciate it. I wanted to come here now. I know you guys have a lot of questions, so I wanted to be here so it wouldn't be a distraction to my teammates when I get to Florida, and so I can concentrate on baseball.
"There have been a lot of distractions over the last year, and I'm sorry for that. I really am. I feel I've let down the fans. I feel I've let down the media. I feel I've let down the Yankees, my teammates, and I accept full responsibility for that. I'm sorry. I'm just trying to go forward now.
"Most of all, to the fans, I'm sorry. I know it's going to be hard, and I understand how they feel. I understand it's going to be a tough row to hoe, but I'm going to work my butt off to try to get back their support. I know it's going to be a long road.
"My offseason, I've been training my butt off, working out two times a day. I've been running, throwing and hitting in the mornings, then in the evenings lifting weights. I know this is a big year. I'm excited to be here, to be a part of this team. Getting Randy [Johnson], getting Tino [Martinez], it's going to be exciting.
"Next, I want to thank my teammates. During this whole time, they've given me calls and been supportive, from Derek Jeter to Mariano Rivera to [Jorge] Posada, I've gotten calls from past players and everything, and I really appreciate their support.
"I can't thank Mr. [George] Steinbrenner enough, Randy Levine, and the guys sitting next to me, Joe Torre and Brian Cashman. I understand it's a tough position for them and I totally understand how everybody feels, but it does mean a lot to me to have them be here and be supportive."
|Jason Giambi / 1B|
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Giambi went on to take questions for the next 35 minutes, answering what he could without violating any legal agreements. Giambi is still part of the BALCO investigation, though he received what Tellem called "partial immunity" for his December 2003 testimony.
"I'm sorry I can't be more candid with you guys about everything because of the ongoing legal matter," Giambi said, "but I'll try to answer as many questions as I can. ... I know the fans want more, but at this time, I can't get into specifics. Someday, hopefully I will be able to."
In a statement issued by his publicist, Howard Rubenstein, Steinbrenner said: "It takes a hell of a big man to stand up and apologize to his teammates, to New York Yankees fans and to baseball fans everywhere and admit he was wrong."
Both Torre and Cashman appeared to be supportive of Giambi, though all parties realized that this was an issue that would not disappear with Thursday's media session.
"Today was a step -- a necessary step. One of many," Cashman said. "It's going to be a long, tough journey. Today will not end it, and he knows that, we know that. Today is day one in dealing with this. Jason is a member of this family, and we'll do everything we possibly can together to get through it."
"Jason's a good guy, and I'm here to support him as one of us," Torre said. "I know the players feel the same way without any prodding from anybody."
The session itself, which was followed by a similar session with television and radio media, was Giambi's idea, as he hopes to deflect some of the attention that will surely be directed in his direction when position players report to camp on Feb. 20.
"He's sorry about creating this situation," Cashman said. "He's sorry about you guys having had to ask the questions, sorry that he's put himself in the position of being on a grand jury and having to testify ... but he can't obviously answer everything that you would like answers to. He wanted to do as much as he can do."
"I wish I would have done a lot of things differently," Giambi said. "I'm sorry for that. That's one of the main reasons I'm sitting in front of you guys today."
Giambi said that his health problems in 2004, which included an intestinal parasite and a benign tumor in his pituitary gland, were in no way steroid-related.
Although Giambi may have skirted many of the steroids questions, he was very forthcoming when asked about the allegations of his steroid use in Jose Canseco's new book.
"I don't know where he would come up with a lot of that stuff," Giambi said. "It's so far-fetched, it's not even funny."
While Giambi wasn't the only player implicated in the steroids scandal, he has become the face of the controversy around the nation. His hope is that a good 2005 season can put some of the negative attention aside, he can get back to the one thing that matters most to him: baseball.
"I can't control the media, and I don't try to act like I can," Giambi said. "I know it's news. That's why I've worked so hard to try and get back to being that player that the Yankees signed, to be the player I want to be."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.