By Yasel Porto
This is a very complicated topic, and everyone will always show their truth or version of the affairs, although many consider the ballplayer to be the bad guy in this story. There are some elements that make him look like a liar or a cheater to the public eye without having clear facts beyond his own account of the events.
A few days ago, Swing Completo showed a video in which one of the biggest Cuban and Latin American stars in the Big Leagues, defended himself against a very serious accusation that today still hampers him.
It is former first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, the Cuban with the best career hitting numbers, mainly in homeruns, runs batted in, runs scored and hits.
In the show, conducted by Puerto Rican former second baseman Carlos Baerga, Palmeiro explained in detail the process that pushed him into an abrupt and painful retirement. In his opinion, everything was unfair due to deception, humiliation and even negligence.
The Cuban slugger was one of the first players ever to be suspended after the approval of the MLB policy against PEDs in 2005. However, Palmeiro said that things were not as they are known, something that, by the way, has kept him sidelined from everything regarding baseball, including the Hall of Fame.
“After my hearing in Congress on March 17, I got tested. It was the first or the second week after the season started that they tested me, and then I got a call from the Players Association to tell me that I had tested positive for steroids,” started Raffy, who by then was a member of the Baltimore Orioles.
Palmeiro did not believe that because, according to him, he never took any illegal performance enhancing drug. “I told them and the press that I had never put anything on me. That’s why we had another test, and that one came back negative. But nobody heard of the result. They only made the first one public. The Players Union knew and the team owners knew as well, but only the first result mattered,” he said.
At the same time, the member of the exclusive 500HR-3,000H club said that there was negligence for that first exam, and the way he tells the story hints at maybe some foul play.
“My sample got lost for seven days. When it was sent by mail, they didn’t even know where it was. My representative to fight for me in the case of the suspension was supposed to be the Players Union, and they did not present that part of the case. That was very serious, because you don’t know what could happen with that,” he added.
About his 3,000th hit, he was very upset with what happened around a moment that, if coveted by many MLB players, for him it was something to forget.
“That day, I knew I was going to get suspended. They told me they were going to let me reach the milestone and then I was going to be suspended. I don’t even like to remember that day, because it was horrible for everyone, including my family. Everyone should celebrate those moments, whether the 500 homers or the 3,000 hits. And it is a celebration for the player, for the team and for the whole league,” said Palmeiro, who added he felt awful at the time and thought his career was going to end after that game.
“I like to think more about the 500th homer, because it had been on Mother’s Day. It was awful for me and my family. I don’t even want to remember that.”
When asked about the result of his appeal because of all the irregularities he perceived during the process, the player, who transcended mainly with the Rangers and the Orioles, he stressed that his lawyer, his agent and himself couldn’t do it better. “We failed and just like that, my career was over. When I returned to the team (the Orioles) I played a couple of games, but I knew they didn’t want me, so they released me and sent me home.”
Palmeiro said several times that he had no need for steroids, let alone in the final stage of his career, “Why would I use anything if I had accomplished everything? Almost 570 homeruns and almost 3,000 hits. Why would I put something on my body if I was finishing my career? My homers were short, not long. I was simply a consistent hitter,” said the former player, born in 1964.
Palmeiro is no longer in the ballots for the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame for being part of the group that gave their statements in front of the US Congress following José Canseco’s allegation and the subsequent “Mitchell Report”. But what damaged his chances even more was the infamous positive test that, according to him, has no validity due to the motives he expressed.
Almost two decades after that issue, it is very hard to know one day what truly happened, or how much truth there is in what the lefty slugger said.
Everything will come down to his version against the test that has been officialized for good, which is what has influenced people the most in baseball and in general. Maybe, his image is tainted to some for decades, something horrible if his words are true. Yet, if he were lying, he would deserve not only what has befallen him, but also being more ostracized.
If it hadn’t been for the ghost of steroids, Palmeiro would be a shoo in Hall of Famer today. Even in his first year on the ballot, he would have been an easy choice because of his stats, which include being part of one of the most important and exclusive clubs in the big leagues: 500 HR-3,000 H.