RHP ∙ 2001—04
The Royals first acquired Jason Grimsley in mid-1997 in a minor league trade after Grimsley had pitched in the bigs between 1989—96 as a mostly ineffective starter. Grimsley got into just seven games for Omaha in 1997 before becoming a free agent at the end of the year. Grimsley then became a full-time reliever and started a cocktail of amphetamines, steroids, and human growth hormone to aid his return as a viable major league pitcher for the Yankees in 1999 and 2000. The Royals acquired him for a second time as a free agent before the 2001 season, and he went on to pitch the best three and a half years of his career for KC. His role never shifted in that time: never a mop-up man and never a closer, Grimsley pitched most often in the seventh and eighth innings of close games. 2001 and 2002 were his best years. He led the team in appearances both seasons, had the best ERA in 2001 and the second best in 2002. He was clearly the team’s best reliever both years, so why he never got a shot to take over as closer from Roberto Hernandez, I do not know. There seems to be little remarkable about those years. He did give up the Scott Hatteberg home run in the wild game that gave the A’s 20 straight wins in ’02, but mostly Grimsley was just a good set-up man on some terrible teams. Only a crazy person dedicates a blog post to that 12 years later, but here we are.
After those two solid years, Grimsley faltered in 2003 while the Royals went on their improbable pennant chase. He still appeared in at least 70 games for the third straight season, but his bread-and-butter fastball was not working as well. Grimsley was a free agent at the end of the year, but wanted to stay in KC. Though he had two-year offers on the table from other teams, Grimsley gave the Royals a bit of a home-town discount and signed for one year. “I sat down with my wife and we talked about how our kids are here and our home is here now,” Grimsley said. “What kind of a price are we going to put on that? That pretty much made my decision right there.”[i]
Grimsley went back to pitching effectively in 2004 but had a scary collision with Royals first baseman Ken Harvey in early June. On a slow roller between them, the two players read the play completely differently. Grimsley was charging to cover first while Harvey picked up the ball and was going to whip it home to try for an out. Harvey’s forearm and the ball smashed into Grimsley’s head, and Grimsley lay motionless on the grass for quite a while. Fortunately, Grimsley came away with nothing worse than bruises and knots on his forehead and jaw and was only kept out of action for a few games. His time with the Royals concluded at the end of June when he was dealt to Baltimore for minor league pitcher Denny Bautista. After leading the team in relief appearances for three straight years, Grimsley was again in the lead in 2004 at the time of the trade. His 251 relief appearances rank sixth in Royals history. Grimsley’s career after that spiraled into controversy stemming from his performance enhancing drug use and an affidavit in which he allegedly named other players using. There was also a bizarre and tragic accident in 2005 when a small plane crashed into Grimsley’s Overland Park home, killing all five persons on the plane but sparing Grimsley’s wife and daughter who were home at the time.
[i] Robert Falkoff, “KC is Grimsley’s home, sweet home,” http://kansascity.royals.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20040128&content_id=631580&vkey=news_kc&fext=.jsp&c_id=kc, January 28, 2004.