sports (2006-24)

Major-league baseball is all hyped up with nowhere to go

As Strong As Its Coffee

by Tony Basilio

Be careful the next time someone tells you they have two kinds of coffee, leaded and unleaded. Especially watch out if you’re in a major league baseball locker room. If federal court documents unearthed in the saga of exiled journeyman major-league pitcher Jason Grimsley are any indication, the leaded coffee in the “Bigs” isn’t exactly the gourmet blend at your neighborhood Pilot.

Grimsley was recently given his unconditional release by the Arizona Diamondbacks after federal agents searched his Scottsdale, Ariz., home and found enough HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and steroids to make an East German swimmer blush. Following the raid, the 17-year veteran was promised the balance of the $825,000 he was due to make this season to ride off into the sunset. That Grimsley, a scrub pitcher in every sense of the word, would be paid to disappear should be troubling. Amid public pressure, the team has now decided it will fight the union and Grimsley rather than pay him. It seems they don’t like the way Grimsley is spilling the beans, after all.

That a player of his caliber is an alum of the Bonds, Sosa & McGwire Academy of Enhancement is downright scary. Every baseball fan from coast to coast must now grapple with this question. If Jason Grimsley is cheating through performance enhancing drugs, then who isn’t?

Grimsley may be a graduate of B.S.M.’s academy, but apparently he slept through the course on dummying up to the Feds. In one part of an FBI affidavit acquired by Congress and leaked recently through the press, Grimsley described the common practice of major league clubhouses having two coffee pots, one marked “leaded” and the other “unleaded.” The “leaded” coffee, according to Grimsley in the affidavit, contained amphetamines. Call it a cup of Joe Hyper.

Marty Brennaman, the radio play-by-play voice of Cincinnati Reds baseball for over a quarter century (and recent guest on my show), was not surprised by the contents leaking out from the probe.

“I do think baseball has made tremendous strides in the drug policy that they implemented as a result of the pressure that Congress put on them a year ago last spring. The only problem with it is that it did not go far enough. Now the biggest problem facing baseball is dealing with this HGH thing because it’s undetectable,” Brennaman said.

Brennaman said he sees a tug of war coming down the pike that will ultimately be decided on a federal level. “Short of taking blood, there is not a comprehensive testing system that will show that there is HGH in the system of a person. I believe that as far as baseball is concerned, it will come. And if they don’t fix it to Congress’s satisfaction, Congress is going to put heat on them again.”

The impediment between Congress and ownership in baseball remains the Players Association that, with a strong leader in union chief Donald Fehr, has been hesitant to embrace meaningful changes in baseball’s drug testing policy. So the grand ole game’s grand ole stain remains.

“Now the thing that bothers me is that the players’ union’s leaders have fought baseball and, as far as they could go, fought Congress until they realized that if they didn’t jump into bed with baseball ownership that Congress was going to implement rules that were going to have some teeth,” Brennaman said. “I want to see how Donald Fehr handles this thing now when the commissioner eventually goes to the union and says, ‘We want to take blood and take a urine test of every player in the game today. We’re going to put them in a refrigerator. And when the time comes that we have a system in place that is beyond reproach then we’re going to test every sample and see who has HGH in them.’ I want to see what Donald Fehr does then.”

You get the feeling that Fehr is a real four-letter word in the Hall of Fame broadcaster’s mind. “Donald Fehr is the most negative force in baseball today, because he doesn’t give a damn about the welfare of the game,” Brennaman explains. “All he cares about is representing his constituents. And I don’t have a problem with that.  I do have a problem when it interferes with the well-being and the credibility of the game.”

While Barry Bonds gives a focal point to baseball’s version of the “War on Drugs,” Jason Grimsley may be known someday as its Oppenheimer. He is the guy with the bomb that may bring the Grand Ole Shame to its knees. “There are a lot of guys who are really nervous around baseball right now. Grimsley is naming names in the investigation, and there are a lot of guys who have a great deal to hide,” Brennaman said.

“You can mark my words. It will come. This business about testing blood and testing urine of ball players will happen. And I want to see how Fehr responds when his back is pushed to the wall.”

Listen up! Tune in and talk sports with Tony Basilio weekdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio WVLZ 1180 AM. Visit for more information.