This sounds crazy. Sincerely, even to myself as I pen these thoughts, it seems a tad bizarre. But, I think it’s time to give Rafael Palmeiro a buddy pass.
Timing and the times.
Palmeiro’s career ran from 1986 through 2005. To me, that’s pretty much aligned perfectly with the steroid loosey-goosey period, as A-Rod liked to call it.
While it’s hard to say when the PED thing blossomed, it’s not unreasonable to think it started around 1983 (give or take). And, we know that Major League Baseball did not roll out a PED policy with teeth until after the 2004 season. So, to me, 1983 (or so) through 2004 was the wild, wild west of PED use in baseball. People did what they wanted and had no marshal in town since the baseball establishment – owners, players and media – pretty much completely looked the other way. There were no baseball laws to break on PED use – and anyone using at that time was not breaking any baseball laws.
Ah, yes, the law. There’s always “that.” Clearly, those using PEDs when Palmeiro played were breaking the law in that they most likely obtained the drugs illegally and were administering them without a medical doctor’s supervision. A crime? Sure…yes…no question. Then again, was it that much different from the 1950′s, 60′s and 70′s when players, with the clubs’ somewhat blessing, were taking greenies (like candy) which were being used without a doctor’s script and coming from shady sources? Further, last time I checked, no one has been ever kept out of the Hall of Fame because they drank coffee everyday laced with amphetamines (supplied in the clubhouse before games in the “old days.”)
No, I haven’t forgotten about the time when Palmeiro emphatically wagged his finger back in March of 2005, claiming that he never used PEDs.
However, think about it: What was he supposed to say at that point? If he tried to plead the Fifth like McGwire or pretend that he didn’t speak English like Sosa, he would have been branded as being a user. And, if no one else was going to confess at that time, why should he?
“He cheated!,” many probably still want to say here. Well…you can say that…but, he “cheated” to do better on the field. This is not like the 1919 White Sox where people were throwing baseball games. There is an old saying in baseball: “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Guys doctor baseballs, steal signs, withhold medical information, fake dates of birth, add inches to their height and shave pounds off their weight, and do other things like that in baseball – all the time. If “cheating” is bending or dancing around the rules, then there’s all sorts of cheating going on in baseball whether folks are called on it or not.
In the end, I am somewhat confident that Rafael Palmeiro will be the modern-day Shoeless Joe Jackson. One hundred years will pass and he’ll still be on the outside, looking in.
Maybe, if someone like Jim Thome, Frank Thomas or Jeff Bagwell gets outed for PED use after they were elected to the Hall of Fame, it will open a door for someone like Palmeiro to have their career re-examined?
In the meantime, it will be McGwire, Sosa and Palmeiro. They’re the PED poster boys. Nothing really to do at this point but to wear it.