Posted: Tuesday August 2, 2005 11:59AM; Updated: Tuesday August 2, 2005 12:59PM
Q: Palmeiro says he has no idea where the steroid came from. Do you believe that?
No way. He must have a clue. Look, every ballplayer in what is sometimes an hysterical climate when it comes to steroids must be vigilant without exception when it comes to what drugs or supplements he puts in his body. Imagine a parent with a child who has a peanut allergy, a very serious condition with potentially terrible consequences. The parent must know the ingredients and preparation of every food the child ingests. The "I didn't know" excuse doesn't wash in 2005.
OK, now take your average ballplayer and assume he also testified before Congress on March 17 after being called out by Jose Canseco as a steroid user. Assume he also is sitting on a Hall of Fame career. Assume he already has seen six major league players busted this year for steroids while claiming incredulity in almost every case. Now, can that person be so cavalier about supplements and drugs that he has no idea where the steroid came from? Is it possible? Sure, so is winning the lottery. But it's not plausible in a logical world.
Q: Palmeiro seems to defend his actions by saying, "The arbitrator did not find that I used a banned substance intentionally -- in fact, he said he found my testimony to be compelling ..." Doesn't this matter?
No. It's irrelevant, which is why the panel shot down his grievance so quickly. He tested positive. He's guilty. A defense of not knowing where the steroids came from does not make him "less guilty" or somehow wronged.
Q: Kenny Rogers was suspended 20 games for pushing a camera operator and his team must play a man short while he is out. Palmeiro cheated with a banned substance and gets half the punishment -- and his team gets to replace him on the roster. Does this make any sense?
Q: Isn't it a shame that Palmeiro just happened to be busted the very first time he used a steroid?
Yeah, right. And yo, I heard they're taking bids on eBay for the Brooklyn Bridge.
Q: OK, how does this affect Hall of Fame voting?
I'm not voting for Alex Sanchez, Juan Rincon or Rafael Betancourt.
Q: Uh, Palmeiro?
He won't be eligible until at least the December 2010 ballot. The Hall of Fame balloting is not impulse voting. The five-year waiting period offers needed perspective on a player's career. And by then, we'll know what the voters think of Mark McGwire.
Q: Right, but what do you do about Palmeiro?
I do have a vote. I haven't made up my mind five years in advance. But I will say this: It's hard for me to imagine voting for Palmeiro the first year he's eligible as if his steroid use never happened at all. It must be considered as an important part of his career, just like all those hits and home runs. I have a hard time believing that I could send him happily into the Hall on the first try as if nothing so wrong ever happened. I'm not sure yet if I'd ever vote for him -- time and hopefully more information will tell -- but I am troubled by the idea of giving him a free pass when he is a confirmed steroid user.
Q: OK, I can understand the cynicism, what with Barry Bonds and his flaxseed oil, Jason Giambi and his years of denials, Canseco's entire career, the feeling of being duped by the Summer of '98, the shoot-'em-up unfettered times of The Steroid Era and now Palmeiro with that telegenic finger-wagging. In fact, I think back to what one star player said during Spring Training this year: "In my opinion, everyone who plays baseball in this era has been tainted. Not just the people [Canseco] has named in the book [by Canseco], I think this whole era over the last 10, 15 or 20 years has been tainted. Regardless of whether you did or you didn't do anything, this whole era will have that label."
Today I agree even more with those words. The star player who spoke those words, by the way, was Rafael Palmeiro.