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Monday, August 01, 2005


On Friday, July 15, Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles was on top of the world. On that evening, he registered his 3000th major league hit. Only 25 other men in history have achieved that feat.

Some sportswriters noted that Palmeiro became an immortal on that night. His place in Cooperstown, NY, at the Baseball Hall of Fame was assured. Of course, serious baseball fans would likely say that his place was already secured. After all, Palmeiro hit his 500th home run in early May, 2003. He was only the 19th player ever to achieve that milestone.

Only a few stars have both 3000 hits and 500 HRs, and two of them are considered "inner circle" HOFers: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray.

Today, Palmeiro broke new ground. He became the first star player to be suspended because of baseball's anti-steroid policy. Blogcritics call him a "cheat and a liar."

Fans remember that Palmeiro, after being named as a steroid user by Jose Canseco in the former teammate's bestselling book Juice, looked members of a congressional committee in the eye and denied ever using steroids. Former star slugger Mark McGwire would not do the same.

Today, he repeated those denials. However, he also acknowledged that he had exhausted his appeals and would serve his 10 game suspension.

You know this is serious because Palmeiro already has his apologists, including a minority owner of his former team, George W. Bush:
"He's a friend," the president said in a White House roundtable interview with several Texas reporters. "He's testified in public, and I believe him."
Bush, recall, mentioned the scourge of steroids in the 2004 State of the Union address.

There are others who think Palmeiro's denials could be truthful, though they base their position on science rather than character. From the AP:
The director of Baltimore's Office of Substance Abuse studies says a baseball player could test positive for steroids without knowingly ingesting the drug.

Anthony Tommasello, who's also an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, says substances called prohormones are found in over-the-counter protein supplements.

Tommasello says prohormones could be found in sufficient amounts in protein supplements to trigger a positive test for steroid use.
Saddened by this news, I tried to cheer myself up tonight by watching Bernie Mac in "Mr. 3000."

In that film, a retired former player attempts a comeback to the game because a statistician has learned that he has erroneously been credited with 3 extra hits (a suspended game's stats were double counted). Because "Mr. 3000" had been viewed as selfish, baseball writers refused to admit him to the HOF despite his key credential.

I won't spoil the ending, but will say that at the very end of the movie, the 47-year old former athlete is shown advertising Viagra. Coincidentally, Rafael Palmeiro already spent two years as a spokesman for that performance-enhancing drug.

So I'm left where I started. Will Palmeiro's new image problem ruin his all-but-certain HOF case? We'll have to wait 5 years after he retires to find out.

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