PHOENIX -- A federal magistrate judge planned to rule Friday on an application by The Associated Press to have prosecutors reveal the names of players allegedly implicated in drug use by former major league pitcher Jason Grimsley.
During a hearing Thursday at federal court in Phoenix, Major League Baseball Players Association lawyer Ethan Balogh called the AP's attempt to make the names public a "craven search for the sensational and the morbid, nothing more.''
Balogh argued that to reveal the names would violate the players' right to privacy and unfairly brand them even though they have not been charged with any wrongdoing.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward C. Voss closely questioned the attorney representing the AP on why revealing the names would be in the public good and override other legal considerations.
Voss said he had received a sealed affidavit from lead prosecutor Jeff Nedrow outlining the status of the investigation, which authorities say goes far beyond the Grimsley case. Voss acknowledged AP lawyer Peter Kozinets was "handcuffed'' because he had no access to that affidavit.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Parrella said revealing the names could negatively impact an ongoing investigation.
"As Yogi Berra said, 'It ain't over 'til it's over,' "' Parrella said in summing up his case.
Voss indicated there would be an appeal regardless of his decision, noting that he expected other judges to eventually rule on the case.
"I wish them well,'' he said.
The AP request is aimed at a sworn statement signed in May 2006 by IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky. The affidavit was used for a search warrant for Grimsley's Arizona home, and when the document was made public by prosecutors, names of the players Novitzky said were implicated by Grimsley were blacked out.
David Segui told ESPN in June 2006 that he was one of the blacked-out names. The Los Angeles Times reported last October that Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons also were named.
Players in the Times report denied using steroids, and Randy Hendricks, the agent for Clemens and Pettitte, said he was told Grimsley denied making the statements attributed to him by Novitzky. Grimsley has not commented publicly, and Kevin Ryan, then the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco, said the Times report contained "significant inaccuracies.''
Voss mentioned the Times report on Clemens. Clemens, the judge said, had no legal forum to dispute the charge.
"All he can say is 'It's not true,' " Voss said.
Kozinets argued that the public should have full access to the entire affidavit to be able to make sure the case is being handled fairly. He alluded to concern that the federal government may be providing information to baseball steroids investigator George Mitchell in return for favored treatment of some of those involved.
Kozinets said that he assumes the players named in the affidavit have been contacted by a federal investigator, and would have the right to contest their involvement as part of their regular contact with the press. But Voss wondered why the names are important to public knowledge of the case.
"The names don't really add anything,'' the judge said. "It's the facts that are important, at least to me.''
Parrella said the Grimsley probe was an outgrowth of the initial investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. He said that probe goes beyond baseball to include track and field and professional football.
In a similar case in New York, lawyers for Hearst Corp. contended this week that federal prosecutors provided Mitchell the names of players implicated in drug use by former New York Mets clubhouse employee Kirk Radomski.
The Hearst lawyers say the names of up to 23 players mentioned in Novitzky's affidavit in that case should be made public if they have been provided to Mitchell.