Wha? Grim? What is there to possibly be grim about after El Duque took a gleeful, terrible revenge on the team that just got done trading him? Why, the old man carved that lineup up like they were a bunch of El Rooques. Carlos Beltran smacked his 15th homer, putting him one behind last year's total, though he probably should have got credit for an extra homer, considering his shot was hit so hard that fans out in right probably saw it arrive before they heard it struck. Heck, young Mr. Milledge can even juggle.
I enjoyed it. I really did. But it was like enjoying the sunshine as dark clouds gather and the TV keeps beeping with a hurricane warning. I apologize in advance for this, but I'm gonna go over some news of the last day or two — not because I think it'll be new to most of us, but because it's going to be the background for a lot that's to come in the next weeks or months. We'll be familiar with it soon enough; may as well start now.
Back in April Jason Grimsley, a journeyman middle reliever with the very Diamondbacks we just beat, was told by his wife that some men were at the door to see him. The men were federal agents. They told Grimsley they knew he'd just received two kits of human growth hormone in the mail, and asked him to fetch them and come with them for a talk. He did, and they talked for hours. Hours in which Grimsley said he'd taken steroids, HGH and amphetamines. He said he'd stopped taking steroids when baseball instituted a new testing regimen, but kept going with HGH, perfectly aware that no urine test could detect it, that blood tests for it weren't totally reliable, and that the collective bargaining agreement didn't allow for blood tests anyway. He talked of the drug culture in the game, saying Latino players and players from the California teams were sources of amphetamines, saying that sleazy doctors at wellness clinics were sources of HGH, and naming names. Here's the affidavit — take a look at all the stuff that's blacked out.
Those names won't stay blacked out for long — and they don't just include players, but the ubiquitous “conditioning coaches” whose role seems to increasingly triangulate between trainer, hanger-on and middleman for dirty business. Deadspin is already working its sources to fill in some of the names, and while its guesswork is still just that, it's informed guesswork. And it already points — on Day Two — to a possible connection that, if true, would be a crushing blow to the game.
And there will be more. Much more. For in Grimsley the feds found a perfect tour guide for the Steroids Era — he came up in '89, with the hideousness of this era just beginning to bloom, and he's played for the Phillies, Indians, Yankees, Royals, Angels, Orioles and D'Backs, not to mention minor-league stints with the Brewers, Astros and Tigers. That's a third of MLB organizations right there.
And you know what? It's more frightening that Jason Grimsley is the face of HGH than it is that Barry Bonds is the face of steroids. Because Jason Grimsley is anonymous. He's the interchangeable middle reliever, the guy you run through a dozen of during the season in a grouchy quest to find one or two who don't totally suck. If those guys are on the juice, how far does it go? Look at this list: Rafael Palmeiro is the exception, not the rule. This list is minor-leaguers and guys on the end of the bench. Wanna say that the stars are clean, that they don't need to juice, and it's the guys scrambling for jobs who yield to the temptation to go dirty? Good luck with that.
Grimsley was never a Met, but we're not immune. Five guys in The Holy Books — Grant Roberts, Jorge Toca, Wilson Delgado, Felix Heredia and Matt Lawton — have already been nailed, as have four Met minor-leaguers. How many Mets would claim places in The Dirty Books, if all were somehow revealed?
Try not to think about it. If you can. Don't start thinking of Mets since '90 or so and wondering. If you can.
I'm not going to put my suspicions in print, because there's too much of that stuff in Blogland already, but there are Mets from the last 15 years whom I cheered for and whom I'd now bet any amount of money were dirty. And there are more and more Mets from that period whom I don't openly suspect, but whom I wouldn't be shocked to find occupying the pages of TDB. And there are more and more Mets about whom I no longer feel safe assuming anything at all. Which points to the worst part of all this: The internal debate is moving, almost too quickly for us to keep up, from “I wonder if So-and-So was dirty” to “I'm pretty sure that at least So-and-So is clean.”
It's vile, corrosive stuff, this doubting, and in the midst of El Duque's superb performance I found myself looking around the field, wondering. Wondering at chiseled physiques, at rebounds from injury, at performances defying age. Wondering about things and players I'd never wondered about before. Until finally I was just wondering.
ESPN has a poll up about the issue now, and two numbers on it stand out: 93% of fans believe Grimsley's statement that “boatloads” of players are using HGH, and 58% said if their favorite player turned out to be dirty, they'd feel deceived. (Hell, if my favorite player turns out to be dirty, I might never believe anything again.) Put those two numbers together and you have a train wreck, and not a far-off one, either. It's right around this next bend. Don't think for a minute we're going to walk away unscathed.