Actually; one of the reasons Palmer is coming back is because ESPN, for which he worked last year, offered him a take-it-or-leave-it three-year contract with a pay cut. Palmer is holding out on ESPN. But the main reason that Palmer, a sometime underwear model, is attempting the improbable is that he feels his major league career was, pardon the expression, all too brief. "I left prematurely," he says.
Those who have seen him pitch are impressed. "It's a shock," says Miami coach Ron Fraser. "I mean, he can throw. I think the majors would be interested in him. They are paying millions of dollars for guys who are 8-14. This guy is a winner."
COMMOTION IN THE HALL
It was a tumultuous week for the Hall of Fame. On Jan. 8 the Baseball Writers Association of America announced that three players, seven-time batting champion Rod Carew, 314-game winner Gaylord Perry, and seven-time 20-game winner Ferguson Jenkins, had been elected to the Hall, while Rollie Fingers, the alltime saves leader, fell 42 votes short of making it.
Then on Jan. 10 a special executive committee on election procedures voted 7-3 to introduce at a Feb. 4 meeting of the Hall of Fame's board of directors a resolution barring any player on baseball's ineligible list, such as Pete Rose, from appearing on the BBWAA ballots. Since the board of directors has much the same makeup as the special committee, the resolution effectively bars Rose from election next year.
The BBWAA was justifiably angry at the heavy-handed tactic. "Personally, I would not have voted for Pete Rose," said BBWAA executive secretary Jack Lang, who cast one of the dissenting votes on the special committee. "But I wanted the right to say no. We wanted him on the ballot so that we could decide whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame."
Even worse, baseball is breaking a promise made by the late commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti at the news conference announcing Rose's banishment in 1989. Asked if Rose would still be eligible for the Hall of Fame, Giamatti replied, "When Pete Rose is eligible, Mr. Lang will count the ballots and you [the writers] will decide whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame." Giamatti's successor, Fay Vincent, has dodged the issue.
On the other hand, the BBWAA might do well to examine its own voting procedures. Fingers will probably be elected eventually, but two players worthy of the Hall struck out for the last time with the BBWAA. Jim Bunning, whose career (224 wins, no-hitters in both leagues, second to Walter Johnson in strikeouts at the time of his retirement) compares favorably with those of a dozen Hall of Fame pitchers, failed to receive the necessary 75% of the vote in this, his 15th and final year on the ballot. And Larry Bowa, who has the highest lifetime fielding average for a shortstop and more hits than Hall of Fame shortstops Pee Wee Reese, Arky Vaughan and Lou Boudreau, got only 11 votes, far short of the 22 necessary to be placed on the ballot next year.
Of course, if the BBWAA boycotts future elections, as some writers angry over the railroading of Rose have suggested, maybe nobody will be enshrined for a while.