Monday, August 08, 2005

Steroids may end Hall of Fame career.

Just when you think it’s safe to enjoy a baseball game, Rafael Palmeiro tests positive for steroids. This is the same Rafael Palmeiro that I hyped up a few weeks ago saying he is a lock for the Hall of Fame and no one in their right mind should keep him out. Whoops!

We just may see that some in their right mind keep him out now. I am sure I am not the only one who thought Palmeiro was telling us the truth when he sat before Congress and pointed his finger at them saying he never took steroids, ever. He certainly looked better than Mark McGwire who basically torpedoed any goodwill he accrued from the summer of ’98 by laying down a thick coat of double talk. Palmeiro certainly looked better than Sammy Sosa, who apparently forgot how to speak English. Palmeiro certainly looked better than Jose Canseco who besides sitting with his lawyer squinting and flinching, “ratted out” his former teammates. A sin that is unforgivable in the sporting world. The locker room is like Vegas, what happens there, stays there.

It seems now that Palmeiro was the biggest liar of the bunch and Canseco looks to be the only one who was telling the truth. How scary is that? Why didn’t we believe him? Why didn’t baseball believe him? If baseball was really serious about stopping steroid use and punishing those who use them, why didn’t they use Canseco’s book to do it, instead of condemning him as a kook? He is a kook, but evidently he is a kook who is telling the truth and whether he wanted to or not, he is the man who might save baseball from itself.

The question is who looks like a bigger idiot, me and the public for buying what Palmeiro was selling, or Palmeiro for getting busted after his impassioned statement to congress? I believe Palmeiro to be the bigger idiot. He was busted with a steroid in his system that you just can’t get by drinking an orange smoothie. Stanozolol, or winstrol, is a pretty powerful steroid. Coincidently, that is the same steroid that Canseco claims in his book that Palmeiro was taking.

Palmeiro now says that he has never intentionally taken steroids. That looks like the same statement he gave before Congress, except for one important word. Assume for a split second Palmeiro is telling the truth, this time. How could he get this into his system? The most believable scenario is that he let a trainer or a doctor inject him with something that he either was told was something other than a steroid or he just didn’t want to be told what it was. If this is the case, Palmeiro needs to turn Canseco and rat out anyone he knows who takes or supplies steroids. This may be the only way to save his Hall of Fame career. Palmeiro was on shaky ground to begin with, but with this on his permanent record, I can’t see the voters allowing him into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, if ever. If Palmeiro cares about his legacy, stained though it may be, he needs to do what he can to gain some trust and goodwill from the voters.

How do I feel about this steroid mess? Thanks for asking. In an earlier column I said I didn’t care if an athlete wanted to take steroids to entertain me and I still feel that way. People will always look for a way to get ahead, baseball just made it easier than any sport in the world. Just because I don’t care what a player chooses to do to entertain me, doesn’t mean that I will respect that player and his personal decisions.

I would never, ever condone the use of steroids, but I understand. Who among us would not consider taking a substance that we knew could get us a substantial raise at work or allow us to keep our job a few years longer. I know that I would have to think about it.

That being said, I think it’s crazy that someone would inject something into their body that scientists do not even know what the long term consequences could be. These players, at least in age, are mature adults. If they want to take their life in their hands and think it is worth it, who am I to tell them what to do? I just wonder if they even think about how many years this may be taking off their lives.

I guess when it comes down to it, I work on a don’t ask don’t tell policy when it comes to steroids, and before you judge, remember, up until a few months ago that was baseball’s policy as well. I am not against the baseball writers for keeping players out of the Hall of Fame that have been proven to have used steroids. Those people are cheaters and they will be dealt with in time.

Those who are only suspected of taking steroids, now that is a different colored horse. What do we do about Mark McGwire? We can’t go back in time and test him for steroids. Is it fair that he didn’t tell us anything when called before congress? No. Is it fair to be convicted as a steroid user without any proof? No, but I have a sneaking suspicion that any player in the “Era of Steroids” will be examined with a microscope, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some big, big names skipped over a few times for entry into the Hall of Fame.

The one good thing to come out of this, at least for some, is that Pete Rose certainly has had the heat taken off of him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Charlie Hustle make the Hall in the near future. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see that Rafael Palmeiro takes the fall for all those hitters who never tested positive for steroids, but have been suspected, by never getting into the Hall of Fame.

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