Monday, August 01, 2005

Is he really that stupid?

Rafael Palmeiro's positive test for a banned substance is a black eye for baseball. No less than 2 weeks after Palmeiro because just the 4th player ever to join the 3,000 hit/500 HR club, all of his numbers will now forever be clouded by this one test. Of course, we don't know what banned substance he actually used, making the the AP story rather inaccurate. Palmeiro's comments are very interesting; he says, "I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period. Ultimately, although I never intentionally put a banned substance into my body, the independent arbitrator ruled that I had to be suspended under the terms of the program."

In the same statement, he is both specific (mentioning steroids) and vague (mentioning banned substances). Although I am sure there will be some Viagra jokes in regard to those other substances, everyone wants to know why he actually tested positive. We'll never know unless he comes out with it himself, which he is obviously unwilling to do at this point. He seems to want us to believe that someone mixed some steroids in with his Metamucil or something.

While it has been noted before that Hispanic players have been overrepresented in suspensions, raising the issue that some players may not understand English well enough to be adequately informed of which substances are illegal, that argument doesn't hold water with Palmeiro, who is clearly fluent. However, just because he speaks English doesn't mean he couldn't have overlooked something. It would also be nice to know exactly when the test took place.

Quite frankly, it comes down to ignorance or stupidity. Could Palmeiro really be this stupid? Stupid enough to put himself at risk of perjury in front of Congress? Stupid enough to destroy all the good will he has accumulated in the past few years as a result of his milestones? Stupid enough to prove Jose Canseco right? Intentionally taking steroids this year is stupid as it is, but a player of Palmeiro's stature taking steroids is monumentally stupid. It's hard to believe that Palmeiro is honestly that stupid. But I'm not exactly giving the benefit of the doubt either. I guess we'll have to wait and see whether he's stupid or just plain ignorant.

This is probably another good time to reiterate that personally, I feel that steroid use should not negatively impact his Hall of Fame chances. If we excluded people from the Hall based on competitive advantage, then everyone before integration would have to go, then every pitcher until the mound was lowered, then everyone since the DH, etc. Baseball's history is competitive advantages. There's absolutely no way to quantify the effect of steroids on the game; therefore, there's no way we can let it be a determining factor when it comes to player evaluation. The best we can do is evaluate a player alongside his peers, and the fact is, steroids or no, Palmeiro was still better than almost everyone he played with.

Of course, my opinion means jack squat. My guess is that if it really does turn out that he took steroids intentionally (or if he never explains himself), the writers will punish him, and it will take a protracted struggle to get him into the Hall. Who knows, he may even have to wait for the Veteran's Committee, which would be a shame.

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