O's clubhouse wasn't alone in discussing amphetamines

The Kickoff

June 21, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

While everybody waits for the remaining names in the Jason Grimsley affidavit to be revealed, the Orioles are trying to proceed as if they aren't all aware that the other shoe is going to land right in the middle of their clubhouse.

Three of the blacked-out names in the leaked affidavit clearly are current or former Orioles, based on Grimsley's claim that he had a conversation with three teammates last year about "how they were going to play the baseball season next year when Major League Baseball banned the use of amphetamines and began testing for them."

It all sounds pretty damning, until you consider that amphetamine use has been one of baseball's dirty little secrets for generations ... and Grimsley's recollection of one casual clubhouse conversation is far from proof that any of those three players were guilty of using illegal drugs.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not running interference for anybody, but the same kind of conversation that Grimsley described in the affidavit probably went on in every clubhouse in the major leagues last year.

Everybody knew that a significant percentage of baseball players used some kind of stimulant -- either legal or illegal -- to get through the long, hot summer, so the issue of what the game might look like during the first year of testing was a popular matter of speculation.

"Who wasn't talking about that?" said veteran infielder Chris Gomez. "It was a big topic. If you're going on that, then everybody is guilty of talking about it."

Gomez said that the conversations often centered on how the amphetamine crackdown might affect certain players, but claims that he hasn't seen any real difference in the quality or intensity of play to this point in the season.

"People seem to be going about their business the same way," he said. "I thought it might be a bigger deal -- that it might affect play overall, but there doesn't seem to be a drop-off.

"I think people didn't know what was going to happen, and as far as some players are concerned, guys thought it was doing more for them than it was. People are still very effective in the field. Those types of substances don't make a player."

Grimsley's recollection of the conversation leaves the impression that the players were speculating about their own performance without amphetamines -- and that may be the case -- but I'm not sure anybody ought to rush to judgment based on a memory that was squeezed out of him during an interrogation session with federal agents.

If he really wanted to implicate those players, it would have been easy enough to do that.

Maybe so, but third baseman Melvin Mora thinks that the impact will be the same because of the high-profile nature of the scandal.

"Even if you were not involved in that thing," he said, "if your name is mentioned, people are going to think you are."

Mora thinks that Grimsley should have known that and he isn't happy that his former teammate tried to drag a bunch of his friends down with him.

"Even if you were just talking to him, people are going to think you did it," Mora said. "I don't like it when a player gets caught and he mentions somebody else. We don't need that."

It has been almost a year since Rafael Palmeiro's positive steroid test put Baltimore in the middle of baseball's performance-enhancing drug scandal. Mora has grown weary of the controversy ... and the seemingly endless questions about it.

"It's been one thing after another," he said. "It never stops. You get frustrated when things happen, like the thing that happened to Raffy last year. I don't even think about that stuff ... It gives me a headache."

There's no reason to think it will stop any time soon, and veteran Kevin Millar thinks that the broad brush of public opinion could leave everyone wearing the same color.

"It's like every time somebody has a good year, he's on steroids," Millar said, "and every time somebody has a bad year, it's because we're being tested now. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't."

Of course, Major League Baseball has only itself to blame for the lack of oversight that led the game into this morass and left its players vulnerable to a federal investigation that is beginning to bear a lot of rotten fruit.

It's almost inevitable that some innocent players will end up being tainted along with the guilty, especially when the most damning evidence to date makes it so hard to tell them apart.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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

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