Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Jason Grimsley

Scandal hits Major League Baseball once again, as Arizona reliever Jason Grimsley allegedly admitted to federal agents that he used Human Growth Hormone (HGH) a designer steroid that current MLB testing cannot detect. Federal agents, aware that a shipment of HGH was coming to Grimsley's house, essentially caught him red-handed. They told him that if he showed them the "kit" of HGH that he had just received in the mail, then they wouldn't search his house. They would also take him to another location to question him. Grimsley, who apparently had company, complied.
Although he technically was not in custody, Grimsley cooperated fully with federal investigators. The affidavit filed by the investigating officer can be seen here. It's amazing, not just to the extent that they caught Grimsley so easily, but also that Grimsley was so forthcoming in the subsequent interview. Grimsley offered details of his usage, claiming he was a former steroid user who switched to HGH because he knew it was undetectable by current MLB tests. He also admits to rampant amphetamine use, saying that such abuse was endemic to the game.
Oh, yeah. And Grimsley named names.
He named lots of names. He named his supplier for the HGH. He named the MLB player who referred him to this supplier. He identifies the Latin players who gave him amphetamines (claiming that the "Latins" always had them). And when asked by federal investigators if he knew of any other users in the major leagues, Grimsley goes on to name several, claiming that "boatloads" of major league players are using HGH.
Now in the federal report in its online form, the names that Grimsley identifies are blacked out.

So let's discuss the implications of this in bullet form (my favorite):
  • If the feds caught Grimsley, they will catch others. Grimsley was having kits of HGH shipped to his home, not exactly the sign of a great criminal mind at work. The feds somehow (the affidavit isn't clear) found out about the shipment to Grimsley's house. This means that they know a lot (enough to get a search warrant), and it's more than likely that similar methods will lead them to other players.
  • This is a gold mine for the feds. This is true in the obvious police sense, of course. But it's also a major public relations score. The federal investigation had taken tremendous heat for its focus on BALCO and Barry Bonds. Bonds apologists claimed that the government was "out to get" Barry. This pretty much shoots down that argument, as the Grimsley case has nothing to do with Bonds, and is evidence that the government really is pursuing all leads in investigating illegal drug use in the majors.
    But the most important thing is that Grimsley was so forthcoming with names. After retaining counsel, Grimsley declined to cooperate with investigators anymore. But by then, it was too late. The feds have the name of Grimsley's supplier who, according to Grimsley, was also supplying a number of other players. Grimsley also named other suppliers of HGH and steroids. This is a coup for the federal investigation, enabling them to potentially nab suppliers, the so-called "big fish." As I type this right now, computers are being erased and records are being shred in anticipation of federal raids at HGH facilities across the country.
  • The names will come out. And it will be a disastrous scandal. I mentioned before that the names Grimsley mentioned were blacked out in the online copy of the affidavit, but if the names are on file, they will almost certainly be leaked to the public, probably within a week or two. This will be a tremendous black eye for baseball; Bud Selig has tried vehemently to get everyone to believe that the MLB has the problem under control; I mentioned this in my earlier article about the investigating commission. This completely shoots down Bud Selig's attempt to end the steroid scandal and make it seem like all of that is in the past. I recently came across a Sports Illustrated article by Tom Verducci entitled, "The Game is Good, Clean Fun Again." That's either horribly naive or an attempt to just make the problem go away. But the problem is still there, and if any good comes out of this scandal, it will be that it prevents Bud Selig from sugar-coating the steroids problem any more.
    Oh yeah, and how about those players Grimsley named? It will be a hell of a few weeks for any former teammate of Grimsley's who used steroids. The scary thing is, as Jayson Stark suggested, that Grimsley has played for so long with so many teams that his list of known users could be a laundry list of stars and former stars. What a horrific embarassment that would be for the MLB; it's been a big enough scandal with Palmeiro, Bonds, and McGwire at the center of controversy; what if Grimsley were able to add 10 or 12 more All-Stars and 20 more everyday players to the list of shame?
    But somehow I doubt that Grimsley will cooperate any more than he already has. Baseball is a game of loyalty, and as with any macho pastime, you don't rat out your buddies. But I doubt that Grimsley's supplier, if caught and incriminated, would be so mum. Whether it be actual documentation of use and distribution or simply an agreement to testify in exchange for a lesser charge, Mr. HGH Man may end up being the one who names names.
  • This is going to have some implications. The reason that HGH isn't tested for by the MLB (it is on the banned substance list) is that the only reliable HGH test is a blood test. (I've heard that they're developing a urine test that will be available within a year, but other sources say that a 1-year timeframe is wishful thinking). And the player's union, of course, has fought every attempt to get players to submit to drug tests.
    What we're about to see, I think, is a reprise of the Congressional showdown we saw last year. Congress (setting aside less important tasks like curbing the national debt and finding Osama bin Laden) will most likely recall all the old familiar faces to grill them about this obvious loophole in the testing process. Bud Selig will be sitting pretty, able to tell Congress (truthfully), "Listen, I wanted blood testing, but the union would never agree to it. It's their fault." And so union leaders such as Don Fehr will get a positive reaming from Congress, the press, and perhaps even the players themselves for refusing blood testing. The union will argue a violation of civil liberties, and while I certainly sympathize, it's simply come down to the fact that without blood testing, any existing testing system will be a paper tiger poked full of loopholes (as Grimsley so obviously demonstrated).
    Will the issue of blood testing have an effect on the upcoming negotiations to renew the Collective Bargaining Agreement? I think it probably will. The union took a lot of heat from hardliners (including Marvin Miller) for re-opening the CBA and revising the drug policy last year. The union's philosophy is to fight management tooth and nail and to never give in. It's a philosophy born of legimitate fears, but one that does not serve the best interests of baseball. We've all come to admit that the Commissioner's office and the MLB are concerned with their own self-interest much moreso than the best interests of the game. I would hate to see the union degenerate into the same thing on the other side. I'd hate to see the union degenerate into a group of leaders more interested in standing up for their unrealistic principles and fighting the other side, regardless of whether these actions are actually the best ones for the game, or even for the players they supposedly represent. In the old days, public sentiment was almost always on the side of the Player's Union; their cause was legitimate, they had great leadership, and they always seemed to be fighting on the side of justice. But since the 1994 strike, the public views the union increasingly as just another misguided batch of millionaires that could give a damn about the game, or the average player. The steroid controversy has only reinforced this view, as the union clings to its own singular principles without acknowledging the bigger picture. And the simple truth is that the union has been trained (under the tutelage of Miller) to always hate and oppose management under any circumstances. So we've reached the point where the union, out of habit and principle, opposes management even when they have good ideas. This isn't to say that the union's issues aren't justified; but rather to say that they are completely out of touch with the realistic state of the game today and even more out of touch with the average player they supposedly represent. We've come a long way from the days of "Big" Bill Haywood and Mother Jones, let alone Marvin Miller. Nowadays sitting alongside Big Business is the Big Union, more concerned with maintaining the status quo than actually serving its constituents. And it would be a tragedy for the baseball union, recognized for years as one of the greatest and most successful in the country, to degenerate to that level.
  • Get ready for more talking, talking, talking. If you own a television or radio that gets any sports show where talking or commentating occurs, please turn it off when the subject of steroids comes up. This applies doubly if you live in the New York metropolitan area.

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