Jason Grimsley celebrated his 31st birthday in 1998 in Buffalo, N.Y. That's not such a terrible thing for many people, especially those who enjoy old-school-style wings, but it's an awful predicament if you are a professional pitcher who has bounced among four organizations inside of two seasons. His major league career (18-25, 5.39 ERA) was wholly forgettable, except for having set a modern record in 1991 by throwing a wild pitch in nine straight games, making him the Joe DiMaggio of scattershot pitching. Grimsley had made less than $1 million in major league salary.
And then something happened. Grimsley became a different pitcher. A better pitcher through chemicals, at least according to the IRS affidavit filed after his two-hour sing-a-long with a federal agent in April. The affidavit mentions that Grimsley turned to Deca Durabolin, a hardcore steroid, to recover from shoulder surgery in 2000. The affidavit does not specify if that was his original entrée into the world of performance-enhancing drugs. But the document includes admissions from Grimsley that he also used human growth hormone (HGH), amphetamines and Clenbuterol in addition to the steroids. The chemicals kept him in the major leagues.
Was the $19,000 or so he spent on HGH alone worth it? The guy who was stuck in Class AAA Buffalo at 31 went on to earn $9 million in the big leagues. His ERA dropped from 5.39 to 4.21. His hits and walks per inning dropped from 1.67 to 1.44. He wasn't a star, but Grimsley was good enough to get regular work for the first time in his life. And while we fixate on Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro and a few other high-profile names connected with what we now call the Steroid Era, Grimsley reminds us that there are many, many more -- by the hundreds -- who carved out less spectacular careers by cheating.
Here's what else we learned from the affidavit that rocked baseball:
Grimsley will never throw a pitch in the major leagues again. He is 38 years old and not good enough to be worth another organization inheriting the baggage. Worst of all for Grimsley, he is perceived as a rat for naming other users. He broke the players' sacred unwritten code and thus is effectively banned from clubhouses for life.
Commissioner Bud Selig may seek an 80-game suspension of Grimsley. Just because Grimsley is gone doesn't get Selig off the hook. He has to rule on the merits of the case at hand, regardless of Grimsley's future employment prospects. And here is where Selig may be headed for a fight with the union.
According to the joint drug agreement, any player involved in the sale or distribution of performance-enhancing drugs is subject to a ban of between 80 and 100 games. The union's intent with that clause may have been to address suppliers, but the language is such that major league officials believe Grimsley is subject to such a punishment. After all, by paying for and accepting receipt of HGH, he was, in fact, directly involved in the sale. A high-ranking baseball source, who agreed that the wording is "loose," said baseball believes the clause does apply to Grimsley and Selig will consider applying it when he does rule on Grimsley. The union would likely file a grievance, arguing that Selig's interpretation is not the spirit of the agreement. In any case, a precedent will be set that someday may affect Bonds as it relates to his perjury case: how the commissioner deals with evidence of drug use in the absence of a positive test.