Rangers teammates credit Palmeiro's presence as the biggest reason for their 48-39 record and five-game lead in the American League West at the break. Palmeiro is everything the boorish Clark was not: sensitive, quiet, careful with his words. "I don't say things just to say them," he says. "But if I see a situation where I can help out, I do."
Righthander Rick Helling says Palmeiro is the first hitter he has ever discussed pitching with. Shortstop Royce Clayton says Palmeiro can watch him swing and immediately identify the reason Clayton is not hitting well. Palmeiro, who usually strolls through the clubhouse with a five-pound weight at the end of his bat, has been given the nickname El Natural� by his teammates. "I've never seen such a perfect swing," says Clayton. "He was born to hit."
When he reached the majors with the Chicago Cubs 13 years ago, Palmeiro was not as even-tempered as he is today. After Chicago traded him to the Rangers in December 1988, he blasted the Cubs organization. In '94, when he returned to Arlington as a member of the Orioles, Palmeiro was booed mercilessly, prompting him to say, "The five years here were a waste." Some labeled him a selfish player.
"When you're young and you get traded, things are very dramatic," he says. "But I know that baseball is a business, and things happen. Coming here was a business decision, but it was something more, too. I wanted to make a good decision—not just about money, but about life. I wanted to be happy."
Palmeiro's smile says that he is. So do his numbers.
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