On July 19, I wrote a blog entry explaining why I believed that Rafael Palmeiro deserved to be in the Hall of Fame once his playing career was over. Less than two weeks later, Palmeiro was suspended for steroids.
Soon after the end of Palmeiro’s suspension, his agent, Arn Tellem, said:
There is another side to this story, and Raffy will tell it soon. I hope that the public will wait to make a final judgment about Rafael until they hear his story in its entirety.
Well, Arn, we’re waiting.
I guess “soon” is pretty subjective, and apparently it means something different to Arn Tellem and Rafael Palmeiro than it does to the rest of us. When the suspension was first handed down, I did not want to believe it. The fact that Jose Canseco might be telling the truth about Palmeiro had never crossed my mind before August 1, and I still have a hard time believing it. But let’s look at the alternatives and see how believable they are:
- Alternative 1: Rafael Palmeiro has never knowingly taken steroids, just like he says.
Experts have said it is highly unlikely that Palmeiro could have unknowingly taken Stanozolol, the steroid that he tested positive for. The only way I see that Palmeiro could have unknowingly taken it is if there is some sort of conspiracy involved, someone slipping some substance into his food or something. I have no idea what form Stanozolol is in when it is taken into the body, but I have to assume it isn’t as simple as slipping it into food or a drink; otherwise, I don’t think the experts would be saying he couldn’t have done it accidentally. Maybe Jose Canseco, in an effort to sell more books, bribed Palmeiro’s wife to stick a needle in Raffy’s butt while he slept.
- Alternative 2: Rafael Palmeiro made a one-time mistake and got caught.
Riddle me this. If you had played a Hall of Fame career over the course of 20 years, would you be tempted to give in to the temptation of steroids for the first time in the year that baseball first started cracking down on steroid use? Would you wait until a couple months after swearing in front of Congress that you had never taken steroids — PERIOD — to start? Not unless you were really, really stupid.
Let’s face it, neither of those two scenarios seem too plausible. But honestly, neither does this one: He has been using steroids for years, and put together a Hall of Fame career by most standards. He was called in front of Congress to testify about steroids, and after adamantly denying it, everyone in the world believed him. But rather than quitting while he was ahead, he kept using steroids, knowing that MLB had a new testing program that was more strict and more public than anything they had ever had, and knowing that with a little bad luck, he would be caught and suspended and his reputation and accomplishments would all be tarnished.
The thing that confuses me is this: all three of those scenarios have one common denominator, and it is a denominator I have a hard time believing — that Rafael Palmeiro is a stupid, stupid man. I don’t think that is true. But if he isn’t stupid, then he DIDN’T accidentally take steroids, and he DIDN’T start taking steroids for the first time after testifying before Congress that he never had, and he DIDN’T take them his whole career and not think to stop once he had won the battle of the liars against Jose Canseco. So is there another scenario that I am not thinking about? Or is he stupider than I give him credit for?
Part of me thinks that this Palmeiro situation is kind of like the girl who gently blows you off over and over again, until you finally get the hint and stop asking her out. I think maybe two years from now, someone will ask Raffy about the steroids thing, and he will say, “Sorry, can’t talk about it now,” but there will be a twinkle in his eye when he says it, and we will all smile knowingly, because we know that she isn’t REALLY washing her hair AGAIN, and he isn’t REALLY ever going to tell us what really happened.
I have a hard time deciding what I think this will or should do to his Hall of Fame credentials, and until we know more, I don’t know if I will be able to decide. If we never do know more than we do right now, I think I would vote against him being in the Hall of Fame. It might be different if he was Barry Bonds, who was having a Hall of Fame career long before he ever bloated up like Violet Beauregarde on juiced blueberries, or Mark McGwire, who was a great ambassador for the game. But this is Rafael Palmeiro, whose numbers warrant a Hall of Fame induction, but whose intangibles are not enough to make up for the taint of steroid use.
I sincerely hope there is a fourth option that I have not considered, one that doesn’t involve Palmeiro being unbelievably stupid and does involve him being a victim. I hope, I hope, I hope…