Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
A Grimsley Tale
2006-06-08 16:33
by Mark T.R. Donohue

So who else has spent the day searching the Internet far and wide for those blanked-out names in the Jason Grimsley affidavit? There's some fascinating speculation going on, none of which I can really vouch for the journalistic integrity of, but this is the InterWeb, where journalistic integrity goes begging. Speaking of which, Jay Mariotti's latest column strongly implies that the names are already common knowledge "behind the scenes." But consider the source. If you don't have the time to troll the blog scene like a minesweeper this evening while watching the Mavs and Heat (BA's pick: Dallas in six), my guess is the site with the inside track to be the first to name names is Deadspin. So bookmark that site, my fellow vultures.

All right, what do we think about this? I doubt anybody wants to hear it, but I'll go ahead and say it: this is the best possible thing that could have happened for baseball's long-term future at this point. Much as they colluded to keep the steroid epidemic under wraps in the nineties, baseball media insiders and the MLB establishment itself were moving quickly to declare the performance-enhancing drugs era "over." This is patently absurd. Baseball presently has no provisions for testing for human growth hormone. If you were a steroid user who built your career on chemically augmented slugging or suspiciously speedy recovery from pitching injuries, what possible drawback would there be to switching over to the latest and greatest in injectable magic? Indeed, much of the more responsible reporting on the steroid crisis has pointed out that the most savvy users had moved on past the drugs that MLB now tests for before these tests even began. Sensing the fatigue surrounding the Barry Bonds story and assuming that the pressure from the government was off, MLB was moving way too quickly towards declaring the problem solved. It hasn't been. In a sense, it never will be. The drugmakers will always be one step ahead of the drug testers, and the temptation to cheat will always get the best of some players. The steroid era will never be over, at least until we make the switch over to robot ballplayers.

Jason Grimsley's run-in with the law is such a shocking story that it forces MLB to abandon its back-away-slowly tactics. Fans are exhausted of hearing innuendo and speculation, but concrete proof is another thing entirely. Stories about anyone besides Bonds using steroids are relatively welcome as well. The implications of what's going on with Grimsley are immediately obvious to observers within the game and without. The government isn't letting up. MLB has to be vigilant to the degree of militance to keep the progress they've made from becoming an outdated joke. But maybe, just maybe, the stakes have finally risen for steroid cheaters. Maybe MLB can't move quickly enough to test for everything that comes from a test tube. But if you get caught by the feds moving this stuff, you could go real live no-fooling prison, where you can do all the weight training you want.

Isn't it nice to read a news story where the U.S. government is the good guy? How long has it been? Seems like forever.

2006-06-08 19:02:34
1.   Bob Timmermann
Very good piece Mark.
2006-06-08 19:07:11
2.   deadteddy8
Hey, just wanted to let you know I'm a regular Toaster reader, including your stuff, and that I wrote the Sportszilla piece. Deadspin has already posted some names, saying their confidence in their accuracy is an 8 out of 10, and Albert Pujols's personal trainer was named. My POV has always been that Bonds has been unfairly singled out because he's an a-hole to journalists and nobody wants to acknowledge that PED use is endemic in the sports they love, and I think it's interesting that you call this The Moment when everybody drops the pretense that PEDs have been eradicated from MLB. Was "Game of Shadows" not enough to make fans suspicious of professional athletes? I have such a hard time understanding that anyone who has read it could come away with a different feeling. Those reporters put together a paper trail and demonstrated how relatively simple it was to set up a low-profile operation to serve high-profile athletes, so how could anyone not question how many other similar companies there are across the country? Why is it that a relentlessly sourced book addressing multiple sports doesn't give people that conclusion, but Jason Freakin' Grimsley running his mouth one afternoon does? Finally, your reference to robot ballplayers totally popped an image of Base Wars into my head. One of the best video games ever. Cheers.

--David A.

2006-06-08 19:32:07
3.   Mark T.R. Donohue
The trouble with all of the work done on Bonds -- which is wonderfully tenacious investigative journalism, worthy of all of the plaudits and awards that exist to recognize such things -- is that the public response to it has been, by and large, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." We already knew before we KNEW, you know what I'm saying? As a result of Bonds fatigue not enough people are realizing the broader implication of his story, which is that every serious athlete in this country has had ample opportunities to experiment with steroid use and until quite recently there were no meaningful disincentives to prevent them from doing so.

And yes, I was indeed channeling Base Wars when I wrote that sentence. I had an epic Base Wars rivalry with a kid down the block from me who grew up to be a famous rock star. Funny story.

2006-06-08 19:39:45
4.   scareduck
"Good guy"? How? In what way is this fifth-amendment-annulling witch hunt a good thing?
2006-06-08 19:41:44
5.   scareduck
Wonderfully tenacious journalism my ass, it was about a federal prosecutor looking to smoke out more victims. The leaked grand jury testimony should have been a felony offense; where's the prosecution of that crime?
2006-06-08 19:50:07
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I wasn't referring to the Grimsley debacle, I was referring to the recent Bonds books, which if you haven't read, you should. And I suppose the government is only the good guy by they're seemingly the only ones doing their jobs compared to the owners, the players, and the media. Unless they're cheating to get convictions, which would be kind of ironic.
2006-06-08 22:19:35
7.   dianagramr
Excellent piece Mark.

Sadly, the ony way to eradicate the temptation to cheat would be for all players to make the exact same salary, and that ain't gonna happen of course.

If money is involved, there will always be someone looking to "game the system".

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