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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sad Ending In Baltimore

Read this and see what I mean.

Rafael Palmeiro is persona non grata in Camden Yards.

And it's ugly. If he's not telling the truth, he's imploding. If he's telling the truth, the Orioles could well implode.

So one of only four players to have hit 500 HRs and get 3,000 hits is told to clean out his locker and go home for the remainder of the season. It's hard to imagine that there's much work left in Major League Baseball for 40 year-old outfielder-first basemen who have lied to the United States Congress.

Unless, of course, you go to play 3,000 miles away in San Francisco with MLB's other lightning rod for interesting substance suspicions, Barry Bonds.

Imagine what those post-game press conferences would be like. The hostility could be so thick that the writers might have to go on the juice just to gain enough strength to withstand the withering body slam-like glares they'd get from both Bonds and Palmeiro if they asked the wrong questions.

There's enough wackiness in Baghdad by the Bay that the average fan in San Fran would hardly notice that Raffy is in the house. Go there, and there'd be so much focus on Barry's passing Babe Ruth on the HR list that few would even notice Raffy's playing 1B for the Giants. The last time I checked, the Giants did need some more oomph on offense, and what better a way to get some than to go to one of the best offensive players of all-time?

Rafael Palmeiro.

Before you dismiss this idea, remember how gone many thought Jason Giambi was in New York at the season's outset. An absolute pariah, he got off to such a slow start that there was talk of sending him to AAA Columbus to straighten out what was then his woeful swing. Fast forward a few months, and the player with the scarlet letter turned out to be a clutch hitter for the Bronx Bombers. Where would Joe Torre's squad be without the one-time AL MVP? Probably sucking wind behind the Red Sox, instead of ahead of them.

The owners have turned a blind eye to the steroid issue in the past, and the New York experience shows that the baseball public is a forgiving group and has a short memory (although Expos' fans, whose long-suffering hopes for a world champion got smashed into the boards in the 1994 strike, wouldn't agree). Brian Sabean doesn't have the budget that Theo Epstein or Brian Cashman do, and Palmeiro probably can be had for a bargain-basement price.

Still, focusing on the present as I usually do in this blog, this story is just plain ugly. First, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa looked pathetic during the Congressional hearings. Then word comes out that Palmeiro flunked his drug test. And now this.

It's hard to imagine a more empty feeling than to have amassed the numbers that Rafael Palmeiro has, only to have most of the baseball public (except for some totally deluded baseball writers who still claim they'll vote for him for the Hall of Fame) think of him as baseball's version of Sadaam Hussein.

There's a saying that it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. That may well be true, but it's also better to have not played than to have achieved the pinnacle under questionable circumstances at best.

The one-time banjo-hitting first baseman turned himself into a star attraction that everyone would pay to see, a Springsteen-class baseball player.

Until a drug test strongly suggested that he was more like Milli Vanilli than the Boss.

What's next after you're banned in Baltimore?

Blackballed from baseball?


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