Gonzalez takes time to defend himself
Remarks from D-Backs partner elicit outfielder's response
PHOENIX -- Ken Kendrick, the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, inadvertently set off a firestorm Thursday with his comments about steroids and Luis Gonzalez to a columnist for the Arizona Republic.Kendrick has been vociferous about the drug issue since former Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley admitted in a sealed affidavit leaked by Internal Revenue Service investigators on June 6 that he had taken steroids, amphetamines and human growth hormone (HGH), two kits of which were uncovered by agents when they first raided his nearby Scottsdale home on April 19. This time, though, Kendrick said he suspected other former Diamondbacks of having indulged in the use of performance-enhancing drugs, "but we probably haven't acted on them." He added that there had always been a shroud over Gonzalez because the left fielder hit 57 homers during the 2001 World Series title season, far and away the most in a single year of his career. His previous high was 31 in 2000. "I'll be blunt with you and say there have been certainly whispers about Luis Gonzalez," Kendrick told the Republic columnist, E.J. Montini. "Because he's such a high-profile guy and you can make a case of his numbers five years ago versus his numbers today and therefore he must have been doing something. Well, he's also five years older." Kendrick declined to make himself available on Thursday to qualify that comment, although he did try to explain himself later in the column. Gonzalez, meanwhile, felt motivated enough to call a press conference Thursday afternoon before the Diamondbacks played the Giants at Chase Field. "I love this game," Gonzalez said. "I play with passion, commitment to my teammates, to the community, to my family and just reading stuff like that is something that is not me. "I've always had my door open for any questions and comments. Of course in this decade of baseball right now that we're going through, there's always the speculation of things. And 2001 always comes up for me with the 57 home runs. It was a great year for me, that's all I can say. It was a storybook year from start to finish." Since Grimsley asked for and received his unconditional release from the club last week, Kendrick appears to have been getting more and more agitated by the issue. At first, Grimsley's agent Joe Bick said that his client would receive the remainder of his $825,000 contract. But Kendrick later asserted that was never going to be the case. This past Monday, when Grimsley was suspended for 50 days under the auspices of the Major League drug policy, the Diamondbacks filed termination papers with the Commissioner's office saying the pitcher shouldn't be paid the remainder of his contract because he was mentally unfit to compete. Previously, Kendrick had called Grimsley a cheater and said: "I'm just not in favor of rewarding somebody for the bad acts they've committed. This guy has had a career of cheating." The players association said it would grieve the matter, adding that Kendrick's decision was in "blatant disregard" of the basic agreement. Bick said on Monday that "it would serve no purpose" to get into a shouting match with Kendrick, who took over control of the club after Jerry Colangelo sold his managing general partnership two years ago. Gonzalez seemed baffled by all the tumult. He's a 16-year veteran who has spent his last eight seasons in Arizona, and he said he'd still like to retire as a Diamondback, although his contract expires at the end of the season. "(Kendrick's) trying to protect the game of baseball in his own way," said the 38-year-old Gonzalez, who has five homers this season, but hasn't hit one since April 20. "It's unfortunate that I have to sit here to defend myself for no reason. Every time I put on the Diamondback uniform I try to represent them the best I can. Like I said, I have a commitment to the community to go out there and play hard and do the best I can. I know Ken is trying to do the right things. It's unfortunate that this had to come out like this."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.