When did Bay Area relocate here?

June 20, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

It just keeps hitting home.

David Segui became the second player to surface in baseball's blossoming human growth hormone scandal and - what do you know - he also has roots in the Orioles' organization. Don't be surprised if the next names you hear also sound very familiar, because there might be as many as four more current or former Orioles in the now-infamous Jason Grimsley affidavit.

The whole ugly mess has left a lot of Baltimoreans scratching their heads and wondering the same thing:

How exactly did Charm City become Steroidville, U.S.A.?

Last July, we were blissfully enjoying the Orioles' latest midseason collapse, unaware that our innocence was about to be stripped away by the news that popular first baseman Rafael Palmeiro had tested positive for stanozolol, a garden variety performance-enhancing steroid that was high on baseball's banned substance list. The following weeks brought more troubling revelations that cast a darker shadow over the Orioles' clubhouse culture.

Now this.

Grimsley revealed under questioning from federal investigators that he had used hGH while he was a member of the club and related conversations with several Orioles players who hinted at the widespread use of amphetamines to get through the grueling 162-game regular-season schedule. Those names were blacked out in a copy of the affidavit that was leaked to the media 12 days ago, but you can bet they won't remain secret for long.

It wouldn't be fair to speculate on the identities of the players involved, just as it isn't fair to assume that the Orioles truly are at or near the center of this scandal. Grimsley was a journeyman reliever who played for seven major league organizations. Segui began and ended his career with the Orioles, but his name was prominent in the steroid rumor mill before he returned to Baltimore in 2001.

The fact that Palmeiro remains the highest-profile major league player to test positive certainly doesn't help, but he also spent a big chunk of his career in Texas, where Jose Canseco claimed in his tell-all book that steroid use was common among the marquee power hitters in the Rangers' lineup.

Perhaps the reason so much anabolic angst is concentrated here is because so much has happened over a relatively short period of time - from the March 17, 2005, congressional hearings that featured two Orioles (Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa) among the four baseball stars called to testify, to Palmeiro's positive test and testimony that attempted to link it to a vial of injectable vitamin B-12 provided by Miguel Tejada, to the package of hGH that landed on Grimsley's doorstep in Arizona and opened such a can of worms in Baltimore.

I suppose if you were the sarcastic type, you might point out that the seemingly strong connection to the long-struggling Orioles calls into question whether steroids and hGH are truly performance-enhancing, but there is nothing funny about what is going to happen to Major League Baseball as this scandal reaches full bloom.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and his new posse of anti-steroid crusaders would be thrilled if the game's performance-enhancing drug scandal was concentrated largely in the Bay Area and Baltimore, but no one seriously believes that to be the case. The fact that federal investigators found their way to Grimsley's Arizona home is an indication of the wide-ranging nature of the continuing BALCO investigation.

No one seriously believes that the feds just happened to lock in on the one marginal player who was, according to the affidavit, ordering hGH through the mail. There could be dozens of other suspects and dozens of other affidavits full of familiar names and unseemly scenarios. We thought the BALCO investigation was over, and now it looks like it has only just begun.

It could go on for years, with MLB special investigator George Mitchell riding shotgun all the way.

When it's over, we're probably going to find out that Baltimore's baseball team was just one of 30 pieces in this tawdry puzzle, but it is a piece that fits so well right now that it looks like a much larger part of the picture.

In the age-old battle of perception vs. reality, perception usually wins the early rounds, and I'm sure that from the outside looking in, the Orioles' clubhouse must seem to the rest of the country to be a stinking cesspool of substance abuse.

That may not be entirely fair, but for the past 11 months, if it wasn't Barry Bonds, it was Baltimore, so what are people supposed to think?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com.

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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