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Archive for Sunday, September 25, 2005

Commentary: Palmeiro hits bottom in steroid mess

September 25, 2005

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And so ends the distinguished career of Rafael Palmeiro, aka "The Finger," "The B-12 Bomber" and "Raffy the Rat."

Don't call the Hall of Fame, big fella. They'll call you.

It's difficult to imagine a more graceless exit from major-league baseball, at least one that doesn't involve throwing World Series games. In March, Palmeiro was the star of the House Government Reform Committee's hearing on steroid use. In July, he was mobbed by his Baltimore Orioles teammates at second base after his 3,000th career hit.

Later in July, it was announced he had been suspended after testing positive for steroids. In August, we learned he was wearing ear plugs to muffle the boos that greeted him upon his return to the field. Now comes his long-promised explanation for how he came to have the steroid stanozolol in his system:

It may have been Miggy.

That's the leaked report from the grievance hearing in which Palmeiro unsuccessfully tried to overturn his suspension. A dose of B-12 vitamin obtained from Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada, Palmeiro told the panel, may have been the culprit.

As excuses go, that falls somewhere between "a computer virus ate my homework" and "somebody spiked my Viagra" on the creativity meter. Where Palmeiro's dwindling credibility reserves are concerned, it could not have been more damaging.

For one thing, suggesting that stanozolol might show up in a B-12 shot is like suggesting that there may have been cannabis leaves in your Wheaties.

For another, the notion that Palmeiro would take anything from anyone without knowing what it was, especially in light of the sanctimonious show he put on before Congress, is beyond belief. Is the guy as naive as Forrest Gump, or is he dumber than a bag of baseballs? Those would seem to be our only choices in this scenario.

Palmeiro is done, finished as a baseball player. Worse, he's walking away with the reputation as a liar, a cheat and a snitch. And yet we would be remiss if we focused the full measure of our scorn on one man. In the bigger picture, Palmeiro is the inevitable byproduct of a system that enables liars, cheats and snitches.

Now here comes Barry Bonds, walloping home runs to dark corners of whatever ballpark he's in, stirring the debate anew. If you've been reading out-of-town newspapers lately, you know how this is playing nationally.

A lot of people think Bonds was and remains a cheater. They think his knee surgeries were a ruse to buy him time until the steroids cloud dispersed. They think he's thumbing his nose at the game. And when they asked him if Congress is wasting its time investigating steroid use in baseball, he said, "Pretty much. I think so. Yeah."

He may be right, however unintentionally. For if this is as good as the government and the game can do - rampant distrust, great billowing clouds of suspicion, Bonds' pursuit of history turned into a forced march, Palmeiro leaving the game in disgrace - maybe they should forget steroids and move on to an issue they can handle.

Allegations of fixed sausage races in Milwaukee, for example. It'll take some digging, but Miguel Tejada has a B-12 shot that'll give 'em all the strength they need.

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