Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Palmeiro, steroids and the Hall

There IS something wrong with Rafael Palmeiro adamantly testifying before Congress that he didn't juice up on steroids and the picture of Raffy the Cheater that is now being portrayed. Something doesn't add up.

I'm disturbed by Palmeiro's suspension for violating baseball's drug policy because I honestly DO doubt he did anything wrong intentionally. Palmeiro is a straight-shooter, not a BS artist like Juan Gonzalez, and has a very good reputation for honesty down here deepinnahearta where he played for half a decade.

I'm also disgusted by the idiots in the media who gloat over and essentially celebrate Palmeiro's suspension (see Mike Taylor on ESPN 103.3 FM in North Texas, Albert Luft at SI). The media loves what it sees as hypocrisy because it views such inconstancy as a deadly sin.

Regardless of the other issues, Palmeiro is a Hall of Famer. This suspension proves he honked ONE drug test, not a series of them (and he's been tested since spring training like the rest of the players). It doesn't prove he's a career cheat, like self-admitted Hall of Fame cheater extraordinaire Gaylord Perry or even lesser-know cheater Whitey Ford.

Nor does Palmeiro's power increase from his first three years to his nine-year run of consecutive 38+ homer seasons prove he took steroids. Buster Olney or Tim Kurkjian said yesterday that no 500-homer hitter before Raffy had ever led the league in singles. That's a useless stat -- after all, how many Hall of Famers in the live ball era have had both a full season (600 plate appearances) with 0 homers (or two with fewer than five) and more than one with 30? Kirby Puckett and . . . But few if any accuse Kirby of juicing even though he ballooned between ages 26 and 32 or so. (And remember how thick and heavy Tony Gwynn became in his 30s after coming into the league as a speedy basestealer? Gwynn obviously never juiced because he was eating too well.) The fact remains that the body thickens between 25 and 35 (The Monk can be Exhibit A), Raffy's did and that's no proof that he shot himself full of steroids.

Palmeiro is one of the top players of his era and deserves a Hall of Fame place as Jayson Stark argues (link in title). Baseball whiffed on self-policing throughout the '80s and '90s. If Raffy used steroids, he's just a product of his era who was caught ONCE (and we still don't know what drug triggered the suspension). I still have serious doubts that Raffy did anything intentionally wrong. And if the suspension is a result of Raffy's mistake (for which there is no exclusion in the suspension mechanism -- it's a strict liability rule like statutory rape, the only requirement is the drug in the system or the partner under the age of consent), then this should blow over quickly with Raffy getting some apologies from the media dimwits who are dancing on what they think is the tombstone of his Hall of Fame chances.

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