Palmeiro reflects on career, failed drug test, Hall chances
At 2 p.m. today, the results of the 2011 Hall of Fame voting will be announced.
The guess is that Roberto Alomar will be elected -- albeit one year late. And so will Bert Blyleven, about a decade too late, but he’ll finally get the ultimate baseball reward.
The other one for us to keep an eye on around here is Rafael Palmeiro, who most likely won’t come close despite sparkling Hall of Fame credentials such as 3,020 hits, 569 homers and 1,835 RBIs. He also has one failed drug test -- and that’s going to wipe out the other stats -- at least for now.
I spoke at length to Palmeiro yesterday, and here are some of the things he said.
Raffy on his chances today: “I don’t know what to expect. From what I can gather, from what I see [on TV], my take on it is, yeah, it’s probably not going to happen. What can you do about it? There is not much I can do.”
Palmeiro has not wavered from his story about failing that drug test in 2005. He contends he never purposely used steroids -- as he told Congress in March of 2005. His only explanation for how the steroid stanozolol made it into his system was that the shot of liquid Vitamin B12 that he received from Orioles’ teammate Miguel Tejada must have been tainted.
“It’s not a story I made up. It is exactly what happened to me. I took B12 I got from a teammate, I took it to my house and my wife gave me an injection and I threw the stuff away and that was the end of it. … A week after the positive test, I took another test and it came back negative. Whatever was in my body was there for a short period of time and I played the rest of the season clean or whatever you want to call it. But I am sure that doesn’t matter, A positive test is a positive test.”
He feels his declaration before Congress -- complete with the now infamous finger point -- didn’t help his cause in the court of public opinion. But he said he doesn’t regret his actions that day.
“I think people hold that against me more than anything and maybe that hurts me, but I was adamant about it and about telling the truth. I could have done what Mark McGwire did. I didn’t have to speak. … Going through that with Congress, that wasn’t easy to do. It was intimidating and overwhelming and not at all easy to have to answer to the congressmen and congresswomen. And so then why would I go back and take steroids, especially knowing that tests had been going on for several years and specifically now that I know my name is out there? Why would I do anything like that? It doesn’t make sense.”
In retrospect, Palmeiro admits to making several mistakes. The big one was injecting something without getting it checked out first.
“That was my mistake, and that’s the one I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said.
He said he had taken B12 shots before in his career -- mainly with the Texas Rangers -- and that it gave him a boost mentally and physically. And he wanted that with the grind of the early season, which included the steroids hearing and his looming 3,000th hit.
“Given the state of where my career was and where I was, it was very very stupid, I should have known better. I don’t need anything -- I never needed anything -- to play the game, to enhance my game. People saw my development as a player. I didn’t blow up to a 230-pound player. ... Obviously, I had a positive test, but for those who say I took [performance enhancers] all my career, they are full of it.”
Palmeiro said he has no problem with Hall of Fame voters who will not select him because he failed a drug test. In fact, he said his hopes are buoyed when he hears voters say that he has the credentials, but the positive test damages his chances. It’s the ones who say he is not worthy -- or that his numbers were inflated by steroids -- that bother Palmeiro.
“Look at my career as a whole and look at my steady, gradual production and how I improved as a player and my consistency. I was never anywhere near being the best ever, but I was good for a long time, I came prepared, put the work in and made sure I did the best I could."
As far as regrets, this is what Raffy said: “My biggest regret obviously is taking (the B-12 shot). And my second biggest regret is how I handled it. I wish I was out there the first day making the case that this is not what I did. … I got advice from lawyers, very expensive lawyers, that were pulling the strings. Some of my friends said, ‘Hey, you need to get out in front of the cameras and explain what happened.’ And I didn’t.’
The failed test will forever haunt him, he said.
“That’s the only thing I can think about, the only thing I can remember in my career. I mean, I remember all of it, but that’s the one thing that comes to mind, that dark spot in my career, in my life. My whole life was turned upside down. It is hard to look back on the good times, and there were a lot of good times.”
That’s why getting into the Hall of Fame means more to him now than he ever thought it would.
“I never played baseball to be a Hall of Fame player. It was never my goal or anything I wanted to obtain. It was just something that was out there. Now, it is very important. If it were to happen [Wednesday] or 50 years from now, it would be a tremendous honor. I may never in my lifetime see that day. Hopefully, I will.”
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