Rangers' Palmeiro continues to produce with little fanfare
Posted: Friday July 09, 1999 12:26 PM
ARLINGTON, Texas (CNN/SI) -- Preston Palmeiro's dad is there to clean up accidental spills. He can give Patrick Palmeiro advice on how to act like a big leaguer. Juan Gonzalez and Pudge Rodriguez have their surrogate big brother back.
"Any time you can be with your kids," Palmeiro said, "and bring them to the ballpark and take your kids to school and pick them up and be with your wife all the time, it's a great situation."
Even after he left the Rangers following acrimonious contract negotiations before the 1994 season, Palmeiro still kept a home near the team's new ballpark.
While he played for the Orioles, his family stayed in Texas.
"If you would ask Raffy today, with everything being equal, would he have liked being here all that time?" Rangers manager Johnny Oates said. "I know he'd say yes. He's not going to say it publicly because Baltimore was really good to him."
Palmeiro was good to Baltimore for five years as well, averaging more than 36 home runs a season with the Orioles. But he jumped at the chance to return to the Rangers.
"I've always been happy wherever I've played," Palmeiro said. "Baltimore was an outstanding place. I had a lot of fun there and I was always happy, so I don't think what I'm doing here is because I'm happier."
What Palmeiro is doing is not that unusual.
He's always been one of the best, most consistent hitters in the American league. He's always done it quietly.
This year, he's on pace to drive in at least 100 runs and hit at least 38 home runs for the fifth consecutive season.
What is different, is that Palmeiro's doing it this time virtually on one leg. Two preseason surgeries on his right knee, the second only weeks before the start of the season, still linger every day in his limp.
But you'd never know it when he's at the plate.
"As a hitter when you have something bothering you a lot of times your mind tends to wander that, but I think he's such as good hitter, he's been able to overcome that," Texas outfielder Rusty Greer said. "It's really a tribute to him wanting to be on the field that he's battled that because he could very easily taken time off but he hasn't."
And it shows.
As the season hits its midway point, Palmeiro is fourth in the American League in hitting (.351), tied for fourth in RBIs (73) and is tied for seventh in homers (20) and hits (105). And he has earned a spot on the All-Star team for the fourth time in his career.
"I'm not sure there's many hitters in the game today that could have gone into the season with as few at bats as he's had and do that," Oates said. "Well, they could have had all spring training and doubt they could duplicate what he's doing. He's having a monster year."
The aspect of his game Palmeiro's probably improved the most since his first stint with the Rangers is defense. He won the AL Gold Glove at first base the past two seasons.
But the Rangers haven't got a good look at that first hand. Because of his knee, Palmeiro's mostly been limited to DH duties.
"I don't want him to get labeled as an offensive player because when he's healthy he can steal a base for you if you don't stop him," Oates said. "He's a two-time Gold Glover. I just don't think Rafael Palmeiro gets the attention nationwide that he deserves."
Palmeiro's made only three career All-Star appearances before 1999, even though he entered this season with more home runs over the last three years than Mo Vaughn and Frank Thomas. And even though only Cal Ripken Jr. has played in more games than Palmeiro this decade.
"It's a shame he doesn't get some of the some of the recognition or exposure a lot of people get, but at the same time, he may want it that way," Greer said. "As long as he keeps going out and doing what he's doing, he'll get what's coming."
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