By ANDREW BAGNATO, AP Sports Writer
June 15, 2006
PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez reacted angrily Thursday after the Diamondbacks' top executive told a newspaper there have been "whispers" about whether the five-time All-Star used performance-enhancing drugs.
Diamondbacks managing general partner Ken Kendrick did not accuse his team's most popular player of cheating. But he mentioned Gonzalez's name in a rambling interview with The Arizona Republic about steroids in baseball, which prompted Gonzalez to call a news conference two hours before the Diamondbacks hosted the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.
"Just to have your name thrown in it -- I've had phone calls from 7:30 this morning till right now," Gonzalez said. "I don't want to be in this situation. I don't think any of my teammates do.
"He's trying to protect the game of baseball in his own way," Gonzalez said, referring to Kendrick. "It's unfortunate that I almost have to sit here today to defend myself for no reason."
In the interview, Kendrick said, "I'll be blunt with you and say there have been certainly whispers about Luis Gonzalez. Because he's such a high-profile guy and you can make a case of his numbers five years ago versus his numbers today and therefore he must have been doing something. Well, he's also five years older."
Gonzalez hit 57 homers in 2001, the year the Diamondbacks won the World Series. His previous high was 31 homers, and he hasn't hit more than 28 in a season since.
Kendrick stressed that "I don't have any suspicions about Luis Gonzalez. Any more than I would about any other player."
Kendrick's remarks -- and Gonzalez's quick response -- came nine days after the Diamondbacks learned that federal agents had searched reliever Jason Grimsley's home in an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs. The team released Grimsley on June 7 and doesn't want to pay him the remainder of his $825,000 salary.
Asked if he believed Grimsley was the only Diamondbacks player to use performance-enhancing drugs, Kendrick told the newspaper, "Absolutely, I don't think he is."
Team spokesman Mike Swanson said Kendrick would not comment any further.
The Diamondbacks were 1-7 since the news about Grimsley broke. They entered Thursday's game tied for first place in the NL West despite the recent off-the-field turmoil.
"It's been a rough week for (Kendrick), and of course, today's been a rough day for me, too, just by going through this," Gonzalez said. "My focus is to play baseball. When I woke up this morning and see something like that on the front page, that's definitely not the way I want to start my morning."
Gonzalez said he spoke briefly to Kendrick on Wednesday after learning that the interview was going to be published. Asked if "fences need to be mended," Gonzalez replied, "No. He's my boss. My job is to go out there and play. He signs my check and the other owners sign my check, and my commitment is to my teammates and to the fans."
Gonzalez acknowledged that his name was raised in steroid-related speculation after his big 2001 season.
"In this decade of baseball right now that we're going through, there's always the speculation of things," Gonzalez said. "2001 always comes up for me with the 57 home runs. It was a great year for me. That's all I can say."
Gonzalez and the Diamondbacks have a $10 million mutual option on his contract for next year. Gonzalez said Kendrick's comments would not diminish his desire to finish his career in Arizona.
"Whether the organization wants me or not, that's something else," Gonzalez said.