By: Tom Cloutier
With a career slash of .290/.378/.519 how is this 4x All-Star not on the top of every team's wishlist this off-season?
Who am I talking about? Rafael Palmeiro, of course.
Palmeiro thinks it's high time he get's back on an MLB roster and says "there's no doubt in my mind I can do it". They say sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction; Stan Ross (RIP Bernie Mac) was 47 when he came back to the bigs in the 2004 sports comedy movie, Mr. 3000. Rafael Palmeiro is 53.
It makes us all wonder why on earth Palmeiro, with a distinguished career of his own, wants to attempt a comeback.
The 2017 Major league season was a record breaker for offensive production, particularly home runs. All 32 teams combined for a whopping 6,105 dingers, more than any year in history, including any year during the steroid era in which Palmeiro played. The overwhelming theory for this year's increase in power (nearly 500 more HRs than last year and over 1000 more than the year before) is "juiced baseballs". This year's balls, players (mostly pitchers) claim are wound tighter, making them travel farther when hit, and have flatter seams, allowing for less movement as it travels to the plate. Palmeiro must've been watching this year's slugfest from the comfort of his couch thinking, "Shit, I could still knock the cover off these balls".
Perhaps his sights are on set on the hall of fame that has thus far eluded him. The stigma of PEDs is beginning to wane as the Hall's harsh stance against steroids is softening. Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, both players linked to PEDs during their careers, but with no hard evidence, were inducted in 2016. In Jose Canseco's tell all book, Juiced, he alleges that he even showed Rodriguez how to inject steroids. With Bagwell and Rodriguez, as well as Tim Raines, who has been open about his drug abuse while playing in the 80s, headlining last year's class, its clear the HOF is adjusting its moral compass. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, perhaps the greatest hitter and greatest pitcher to ever live, have continually been blocked out, but continue to get more votes every year, it's only time before they enter the hall, as well. Palmeiro, who was the first major star to test positive, and be suspended, for PEDs fell off the ballot after only his fourth year of eligibility with just 4.4% of the vote. He was cast off future ballots despite being just the fourth player in history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. While the HOF has committees that look back and analyzes certain periods of baseball for players that were originally overlooked and missed/fell off the ballot, playing again can automatically get Palmeiro's name in front of the voters. The rules for eligibility require five years to pass since the last season in which a player played before they appear on the ballot. They also state that if a retired player comes back to play, his clock resets and he'll be eligible five years after he retires again. All Palmeiro needs to do is play one game in the majors next year and his name will be smack-dab at the top of the 2023 Hall of Fame ballot. Quite the long con, Rafael.
If teams don't want to take a chance on an elderly PED user, maybe he could show up to a team's spring training camp in disguise à la Bobby V, except Palmeiro would have to shave his instead of putting one on.
More power to you Palmeiro, but I have to doubt that power is still in your bat.
Images: (Deadspin) (USA Today) (CBS Sports)