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Saturday, June 10, 2006
HGHer Grimsley Won't be Paid Salary

The latest development in the Jason Grimsley saga is today's news that the Arizona Diamondbacks, who unconditionally released Grimsley this week after learning that his house was raided by federal agents, do not intend to pay Grimsley the remainder of his salary for the year. It is customary for released MLB players to be paid for the remainder of a season. The Diamondbacks' move also contradicts published statements made by Grimsley's agent, Joe Bick, who said that while he expected Grimsley would retire, he thought the player would be paid this year's salary.

By way of published statements, the team has effectively dared Grimsley, likely to become the Linda Tripp of the steroids scandal (especially if his statements manage to drag down current MLB darling Albert Pujols), to have his union rep file a grievance. The team seems particularly miffed that after Grimsley's house was searched in April, the player declined to inform the team promptly (but instead suited up in a DBacks uniform).

Although I have no particular love for Grimsley, I suspect that the team has overstepped its bounds here. Baseball's commissioner has virtually unlimited power to act in the best interests of the game of baseball, and could conceivably, without threat of judicial / arbitral reversal, suspend Grimsley without pay. But the team itself does not have those same broad powers, unless the contract contains a clause allowing the team to escape from its obligations if the player is found to have used a controlled substance. The so called Loyalty Clause that requires a player to "obey the club's training rules" would not seem to me to be sufficient grounds to escape the contract. The Loyalty Clause (Section 3(a) of the Uniform Player Contract) provides:

The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club's training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship.
While it may be a close issue, I don't think this clause is sufficient cover for the Diamondbacks. Is this language specific enough to be enforceable? Is Grimsley's admitted usage of HGH, anabolic steroids and amphetamines a clear violation? I think Grimsley is going to need all the money he can get (to pay for a good defense team), and pursuing that grievance is a good idea if his claim is a likely winner.

As I've suggested in some earlier posts, the steroids scandal may present many of these interesting contractual disputes. Can a team escape from its contractual obligations if a player tests positive? What if a player, like Grimsley here or Jason Giambi a year ago, hasn't failed any baseball steroids tests, but has admitted to past use? Does the fact that Grimsley is the target of law enforcement attention matter?

Update: According to agent Bick, Grimsley plans to fight the Dbacks over this matter. A grievance is "already in process," as ESPN reports here.


Well, using HGH illegally definatly breaks the training rules, does not conform to even a middling standard of personal conduct, and quite obviously goes against any principles of fair play or good sportsmanship. How is this even a close call?

Anonymous Adam -- 6/10/2006 7:19 PM  

..."a team escape from its contractual obligations if a player tests positive?"

Wouldn't it be great if that were the case. I mean what a deterrent. If you test positive, you are docked pay. The problem is a five letter word: MLBPA. The cure is a 7 letter word: Congress. (read like Stallone talking in Rambo)

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/10/2006 7:20 PM  

NFL: Look at the quote at the end of this one....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/10/2006 7:43 PM  


It depends what is in each individuals contract regarding use of "whatever".

Admissions can be re-tracted. The actual test results should prevail.

Being a "target" does not "prove" guilt.

It is not possible to make a decision in this case until Mr. Grimsley"s contract has been read.

Anonymous Richard Mock -- 6/11/2006 1:16 PM  

Geoff, I agree with you that the loyalty clause has not been breached by Grimsley. Although MLB contracts are guaranteed, if Grimsley retired, then he's not entitled to the remainder of his salary under his contract. However, if a team unconditionally releases a veteran player during the term of a guaranteed contract, then the player is entitled to the remainder of his salary (offset by any salary paid by another team in the event the player is subsequently picked up after being released). Here D-backs are saying that he chose to retire and asked for his unconditional release. If true, I would say he doesn't get the remainder.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 6/11/2006 2:30 PM  

Also I've heard from a reputable source that there were 21 names on the affidavit and that another player already had a copy of the affidavit to see if his name was on it or not. What are the odds this leaks, about 50-75%?

Anonymous Ryguy -- 6/12/2006 11:45 AM  

It's somewhat moot now, since Grimsley's been suspended for 50 games by MLB. Of course, he can challenge that suspension.

Blogger Brian Moore -- 6/13/2006 1:29 PM  

I agree with the first poster that the following contract language is a problem for Grimsley:

"...pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship."

I don't know what the Club's standards are -- they are likely unpublished. Maybe they permit players to act in a way that prompts an FBI raid. Maybe they don't mind players cheating to enhance performance of the club, as long as they don't get caught.

But I'm pretty sure the American public's standards of personal conduct and fair play do not include FBI raids and the use of steroids, HGH and amphetamines. If they did, Congress wouldn't bother with hearings about such things, and drugs in sports would not be such a frequent topic in all forms of media.

I suppose it is possible to read the clause to say that the personal conduct, fair play and sportsmanship are standards established by some source other than the American public and the Club. In that case, the player is pledging to the American public he will abide by those standards, whatever they may be. To me, that would be a strained reading of the clause: if the Club/MLB and the American public's standards are not the reference point, what is?

Inclusion of the "American public" in the contract language indicates that MLB's intent is clearly to maintain at least an appearance of integrity vis-a-vis the public, probably to protect the game's historical reputation as the national passtime.

That's not entirely different than an executive's employment agreement and the corporation's concern about its own reputation with the American consumer. Arguably, this would qualify as an act of "moral turpitude" that would result in termination for cause under an executive employment agreement in corporate America. Of course, in corporate America he'd get a huge severance package from his/her pals on the board. :)

Blogger ChapelHeel -- 6/13/2006 4:25 PM, that was supposed to be pasttime.

Blogger ChapelHeel -- 6/13/2006 5:27 PM  

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