On and off for months, I’ve written about Rafael Palmeiro. Back in August, I wrote a column for 360 the Pitch talking about how his steroid suspension dimmed his star power. Today, Palmeiro resurfaces again in the media. This time, he spins his tale for New York Times columnist Murray Chass.
The story begins much the way every recent interview with Palmeiro starts:
Rafael Palmeiro doesn’t know. He doesn’t know if he wants to continue playing the game he has played for the past 19 years, and he still doesn’t know, he said yesterday, how steroids got into his body and prompted a positive test. The two unknowns could be linked.
Cry me a river, Mr. Chass. Despite the best attempts of the article, I just could not find much sympathy for Palmeiro and his plight.
In a baseball sense, Palmeiro’s story is tragic. He testified in March before the House Committee on Wasting Time and Taxpayer Money that he had never taken steroids. In July, he became the latest member of the exclusive 3000-hit, 500-home run club. Then, 17 days later, he became the latest member of the exclusive “suspened 10 games for steroid use” club so in vogue this season.
After his suspension, Palmeiro would return for a few lackluster games before the Orioles sent him home. Later, he threw his on teammates under the bus, saying that a B-12 vitamin shot supplied to him by Miguel Tejada was tainted. For some odd reason, Tejada vaguely asked to be traded from a beleaguered Orioles organization.
Throughout the piece, the author sides with Palmeiro. The star was cleared by the House panel of perjury and trainers with the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers both denied that Palmeiro was on steroids. (On a tangential note, if these trainers were in a position to support Palmeiro, I can only wonder how many athletes they could turn on and name as steroid users during the drug’s heyday among baseball players.)
Yet for this outpouring of support for Palmeiro, I think something fishy is going on here. Somehow, Palmeiro was the only one of the Orioles who used the supply of Vitamin B-12 to test positive for steroids. He’s stuck to this B-12 story like a mosquito to fly paper. But his explanation has never really clicked with me. Something just isn’t right. To me, Palmeiro was found guilty, and he has yet to offer compelling proof that he is indeed innocent.
In Mr. Chass’ column, Palmeiro says, “If something happened that I’m not aware of, an intentional act by someone else, I don’t know. I can’t rule anything out.” Here, Palmeiro wants us to believe that many someone else on the Orioles spiked his B-12 shot! We better call out Scooby Doo and the gang to solve this one. Palmeiro, who calls himself naive in the interview, expects his adoring public to side with him on these conspiracy theory ramblings.
Then, Palmeiro goes on to use his body weight as a defense. He’s always weighed between 195 and 210 pounds during his playing career, he says. Doesn’t that absolve him of innocence? Not so fast. Time and again, medical experts have hypothesized that the beneficial effects of steroids come not in added strength but in faster healing. A player on drugs can heal from injury faster or they can rebound from the day-in, day-out travails of the baseball season. That doesn’t necessarily mean a player will bulk up or put on weight just by using steroids. While some players may use steroids to put on more muscle mass, others, as Matt Lawton’s recent admissions show, have used steroids to numb chronic pain that affects their playing ability.
Midway through the article, Palmeiro talks about joining the Yankees as a backup first baseman. I’m not too keen on this either, and I would be that the Yankees aren’t either. The Bombers already have one first baseman who had to apologize for something steroid-related. I would bet they don’t want another one with actual steroid baggage. Palmeiro says it would be a dream to play for the Yanks. I say keep dreaming, Rafael.
In the end, I don’t believe that steroids gave Palmeiro the career he had. Hitting a baseball is one of the hardest feats in professional sports, and no amount of steroids can, as far as I know, increase one’s ability in this regard. He earned his 3000 hits. Did he earn his 500 home runs? No one will know for sure. But until Palmeiro stops spewing out this exceedingly lame excuses, this fan won’t be able to respect him anymore.