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06/12/06 9:39 PM ET
Grimsley suspended for 50 games
First big leaguer to be so punished under new agreement
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Major League Baseball has suspended Jason Grimsley for 50 games under the auspices of its joint drug program, making the former Diamondbacks pitcher the first Major Leaguer to be so punished without failing a drug test. Grimsley is also the first big leaguer to be suspended under the new rules this season. The latest policy, which was negotiated by the owners and the union last year, has provisions to suspend a player if he admits to using performance-enhancing drugs even though he hasn't tested positive. The 50-game suspension is without pay. In addition, Ken Kendrick, the managing general partner of the Diamondbacks, said Monday that his club has filed termination papers with the Commissioner's office, stating that Grimsley was unfit to play and should not be compensated for the remainder of the season. "We had an 11 a.m. deadline to file the papers and we did so," Kendrick said via phone on Monday morning. "There are clauses in the contract that allow for us to terminate him without pay. We did so, saying he was mentally unfit to play. We still think he is." Grimsley, who is under federal investigation for the use and possession of performance-enhancing drugs, asked for and was granted his release this past Wednesday, a day after the story broke and the Diamondbacks became aware of the situation. Thirty-nine years old and in his 15th season, Grimsley hasn't determined whether he wants to continue playing, although comments this past week from his agent, Joe Bick, and his attorney, Edward F. Novak, have indicated that he is ready to retire. If that is the case, the suspension would be moot, said Greg Bouris, a spokesman for the MLB Players Association, which would handle any appeal for the player. "The suspension will only take effect if Jason continues to play," Bouris said in a phone interview on Monday. "And we will confer with Jason to see if he wants to appeal." Grimsley could have grounds to appeal the suspension based on MLB's interpretation of the rules in the drug policy and how it was applied in his case. As far as his termination from the Diamondbacks is concerned, the union made it clear that it will vigorously defend Grimsley. Major League players are paid during the season only on the 1st and 15th day of every month and Grimsley's money will become an issue if he is not paid by the Diamondbacks on Thursday. Grimsley was released two months into his one-year, $825,000 free agent contract. "It is a blatant violation of the Basic Agreement," Bouris said. "And we intend to grieve that shortly." Under normal circumstances, the Basic Agreement stipulates that any player given his unconditional release "for failure to exhibit skill or competitive ability shall be entitled to receive his pay in an amount equal to the unpaid balance of the full salary." But the Diamondbacks are arguing that these are hardly normal circumstances. "We think we're taking the right course," Kendrick said. "If something else happens and we're told we have to pay him, then that's what we'll have to do." Grimsley was confronted by Internal Revenue Service investigators at his nearby Scottsdale home on April 19. Grimsley had received a package containing two kits of human growth hormone (HGH) worth $1,600 each via the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS had been awaiting delivery of the shipment of the substance and Grimsley surrendered the kits when presented with a search warrant on that date. HGH is illegal to use under MLB's current drug policy, but there is not an effective test -- either urine or blood -- to prove a player is using it. Just the possession of it, and Grimsley's admission that he was using it in an affidavit leaked by investigators to the media and MLB, would seem to be enough to warrant suspension under the program. Grimsley also admitted in the previously sealed affidavit that he had been taking steroids since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2000, and he was told he actually failed a drug test in 2003. Novak, one of the top criminal attorneys in Arizona, also confirmed that Grimsley was a steroid user. Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources, declined to comment, citing privacy stipulations in the drug policy and attorney-client privilege in the contract matter. Bick, Grimsley's agent, said he was aware of the suspension and also declined to comment in detail, saying only that "the union has all the information and is working on it."
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.