Some of the most die hard Baltimore Orioles fans can think back to a day when we had one of the best first basemen in the modern era.
Yes, arguments can be made for Randy “The Moose” Milligan, but he was more fan favorite than league star. We also had a guy at one point, who was stellar defensively and could crush the ball from the ballpark anywhere, but we aren’t talking about Chris “Crush” Davis either. Actually, I am talking about Rafael Palmeiro.
I know, I know; many people hear his name and the first thought is, “Didn’t he used steroids?” But when you look at the body of work and then hear what the House Government Reform Committee Chairman had to say, you have to scratch your head. Let’s look at what the pudding has to show us.
Palmeiro was born September 24, 1964, in Havanah, Cuba. He entered the league after three productive seasons at Mississippi State University, as a first round draft pick back in 1985. Palmeiro was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and made his Major League debut in 1986.
The Cubs, whom he played three years for, would be one of three teams Palmerio would represent over his 20-year career. He played for the Texas Rangers (10 years) and the Baltimore Orioles (7 years) on two occasions for each team.
Over the course of his career, Palmeiro had 14 straight seasons with 20+ home runs, with his career high being 47, two times while with Texas. There was a streak of nine seasons with 38 or more home runs as well. He hit a grand total of 569 home runs in his career, which is even more impressive by the fact he also had 585 doubles. Palmeiro was a threat to get on base anytime he stepped to the plate, amassing 3,020 hits over his career, which is not an easy feet in baseball then or today.
Why are these stats impressive? Raffy produced as a middle of the order bat. His .288 career average is evidence by that, but 1,835 career RBI made it almost impossible to try and out-pitch or take him down with ease. He carried a .371 OBP and ended his career with 1.353 walks, which was five more than he struck out. Palmeiro was the epitome of what a clean-up hitter was during a time where pitchers were winning 20 games and striking out 300+ batters with ease.
Palmeiro wasn’t just a one dimensional player either. Over his career, he won three Gold Glove Awards and was an All-Star on four occasions. He played first base like he hit, with an approach that he could be a difference maker and would be ready for anything coming his way. He logged 143 or more games 16 times during his career, showing durability and dependability.
Then came José Canseco’s book in 2005. A former teammate of Palmeiro, Canseco accused Rafael of using performance-enhancing drugs when they were teammates. Of course, Canseco accused most of baseball, even though during this time these drugs were not illegal in the sport.
Former Major League Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, couldn’t have this hanging over the sport, especially since it had barely been 10 seasons since a strike-shortened season tarnished the game in 1994. Unfortunately for the baseball world, Congress got involved by launching its own investigation and calling numerous stars to testify on Capital Hill.
Infamously, in front of the nation, Palmeiro testified that he had never used steroids in his career, while wagging his finger back and forth. Fans in Baltimore rejoiced as their star first baseman had stood up and denied his use to the nation. Sadly, a few weeks after he recorded his 3,000th hit, Palmeiro failed a drug test, enduring a 10-game suspension that would ultimately ruin his career going forward.
At the time, Palmeiro appealed but eventually served his suspension, and he became more of a distraction for the team than a player by the end of the season. Everyone had a different perception of him, and he was booed more than cheered in his time thereafter.
Tom Davis, Rep-VA and Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, had said that Palmeiro did not perjure himself in his testimony.
“Although Congress could not find evidence of steroid use prior to his testimony, this does not mean he is innocent or guilty either.”– Tom Davis on Rafael Palmeiro’s case
Palmeiro never played in the majors again after the 2005 season. He ended his Orioles career with 223 home runs, 701 RBI, and 204 doubles. He is one of six players who have 3,000+ hits and 500+ home runs for their career; Palmerio is the only one who is not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
After four attempts, Palmeiro failed to receive enough votes to remain on the ballot for the Hall of Fame and fell off. People can decide what to believe, but the stats back it up over a time, where fans flooded stadiums waiting for the next big thing. Right or wrong, the stats don’t lie.
Palmeiro may not make it to the Hall, but he has put that reality behind him.
“I’m over that. There’s nothing I can do. I think I still have one more shot at it coming up at some point, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m not holding my breath. I think I had a pretty good career. I gave everything I had to the game. I wasn’t the best player. I didn’t have the most talent, but I came out and played every day, whether I was hurt, sick, good, or bad. I did everything I could to help my team win. Obviously, what happened to me at the end took all that away, and the vote was just never there, so it is what it is.”– Rafael Palmeiro on not receiving enough votes to enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Please, Raffy! Just say ain’t so!
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