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Friday, May 6, 2016

Basic Biittner: Will "Who's He?" bring down baseball?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

If (and that's a big "if") something substantial is ever done to deal with the whole steroids/HGH/amphetamine mess that has plagued Major League Baseball, it may not be a superstar who deals the game its final blow. I find it ironic that the critical blow to "the National Pastime" may not have been dealt by a superstar, but rather by a player whose career is the very definition of "journeyman."

In early June, a reliever for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Jason Grimsley, admitted to investigators the personal use of banned substances, as well as the distribution of the substances to oher players, reportedly "naming names."

Jason Grimsley toiled as a "setup man" (ironic, isn't it?) , and occasional starting pitcher for seven different major league teams, in both leagues, for parts of 18 seasons - and yet, I'm guessing there aren't many baseball fans who are very familiar with him. Take me, for example. I am a huge Yankee fan, and have been for most of my life. Yet, when the story broke, I had to look it up to see if Grimsley had worn the pinstripes. I thought he had, but wasn't sure. As it turns out, he had the highest single-season win total of his career with the Yankees in 1999, with a whopping seven wins.

All told, the 38-year-old appeared in 552 games and threw 936.2 innings in his long, undistinguished career. For the record, he first pitched for the Phillies in 1989, and subsequently toiled for Cleveland, California, the Yankees, Royals, Orioles, and Diamondbacks, and posted a won-lost record of 42-58, with a 4.77 ERA. He started only 72 games, and earned just four saves in his career. He also had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow after the 2000 season, and also had ulnar collateral ligament surgery (aka "Tommy John surgery") following the 2004 season. The day after the drug story broke, Grimsley asked for and, no surprise, received his release from the Diamondbacks.I think it's pretty safe to say his career is over.

The fact that Grimsley pitched for so many teams, in both leagues, for so many years, may not have made him a familiar face with fans, but what an " ideal" setup for establishing contacts with literally hundreds of players. Some of Grimsley's teammates apparently sought Grimsley out, seeking something that might be able to help them improve their performance, or heal more quickly from injuries, and thus allow them to have a long career, earning the big bucks, just like him.

So, when all is said and done, it may not be a superstar like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, or Sammy Sosa who is responsible for finally bringing the so-called "Steroids era" to a close, but rather a real "who's he?" player.

I just hope that someone with some the authority (e.g., Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig or Congress, if necessary) acts quickly to end this stain on the game - and hope that other sports follow suit as well.

I don't know about you, but I would love to see the day when sports newspapers, periodicals, and television shows will be able to return to covering ONLY athletic contests on the field of play!

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner