Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rafael Palmeiro - A Babe Amongst Wolves?

Okay, here's the commentary I wound up doing for the actual sports section.

Palmeiro must have
been led astray

What to do with Rafael Palmeiro?

The Baltimore Orioles first baseman, who testified before a congressional panel five months ago that he had never, ever, used steroids, has changed his tune -- now it's "I've never knowingly done steroids."

The new line came Monday, after Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days for coming up positive for steroid use in the Major Leagues' new drug-testing program.

Can we coin a new phrase here? Let's call it "pulling a Bonds." It goes like this:

"What? There were STEROIDS in those syringes I was injecting into my pectoral muscles? I thought it was vitamin C!"

These poor Major League Baseball players are clearly being victimized. Someone is tricking them into using illicit substances, and I think I know who it is.

It's Jose Canseco. After the congressional hearings on steroid use in MLB, he needed to make sure all those crazy accusations he made in his tell-all book "Juiced" were accurate, so he got himself a black Chevy G20 van and has been driving around ever since, looking for naive players and offering them candy and rides.

Can't you imagine Canseco pulling up to the Baltimore locker room doors, opening the side of his van, and asking the doe-eyed players to help him search for his lost puppy dog?

Who could blame them?

Yes, these helpless, innocent professional athletes don't know any better but to accept Canseco's invitation into his van, wherein he hits them with the chloroform and drives them off to Oakland, where he starts them on a cruel and slavish regimen of anabolic steroids.

At least, that's how the "I didn't know" routine would have to run.

Is it really possible to believe, given the media and political spotlight steroids are currently in, that any professional athlete, let alone one with Cooperstown hopes, could be so blase about what he's using as a dietary supplement or exercise booster as to not care to find out where it came from or what was in it? Signs point to no.

It seems the primary concern at the moment is whether this suspension will hurt Palmeiro's chances at induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Some prominent sports writers are saying they'll vote for him anyway, based on the strength of his influence and his 3,000-hit, 500-home run record.

Three thousand hits is certainly a lot. But stats and numbers do not a Hall of Famer make, at least not completely.

Sorry to break out the sepia-toned lens here, but baseball is still considered to be "America's pastime." The Baseball Hall of Fame should be reserved for those players who truly embodied not only the ideals of baseball, but of everything good about America, too.

All politics aside, cheaters aren't people we've traditionally looked up to (at least not for the fact they cheated). And when it comes to steroids, it's a simple formula: steroids are against the rules of the game, and if you break the rules to get ahead, then you're cheating.

And if you cheat, you aren't someone I want in the Hall of Fame. The same goes for lying or passing the buck, and Palmeiro looks guilty on both counts. But he's hardly the first, and will by no means be the last potentially legendary player to have his record tarnished by drugs.

"The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Major League that day..."


UPDATE: Open Post at Mudville, and Greyhawk oughtta like the final poetry reference.