August 8, 2005
Vote For Fred
I have had to ask myself this question: How can it be construed that Rafael Palmeiro let down his teammates and/or the fans when what he might have been doing kept him in the lineup? Was he not making his employer happy, an employer who would ask him to take cortisone shots or undergo surgery and lengthy rehabilitation if it were all for the good of the team? How many letters to the editors and newspaper and Internet column inches have been devoted to roasting J.D. Drew of the Dodgers this season-- actually, even before the season started-- for his peculiar ability to be injured? Can we agree that there are some Dodger fans out there who would want to see Drew in the lineup every day and wouldn't really care how that happened? Seen a Yankee game lately? How about those cheers for Jason Giambi?
Through hard work alone, or so we're told, Giambi appears to have regained his home run swing. But Giambi isn't worth the money he's making this year. The RBI total is not what you'd want from a player making $15 million. And the Yankees are on the hook for $66.5 million more through 2009. Those cheers might be for the hope that there's a sucker out there who thinks Giambi is worth taking off the Yankees hands.
Palmeiro is on a one-year contract for $3 million. This may have been the end of the line anyway, so we might surmise that he took what he took so that he could get a shot at 3,000 hits and perhaps clinch first-ballot election to the Hall of Fame, an election that has been somewhat in doubt before it reached its current state because Palmeiro was of a generation filled with Hall-worthy first basemen. Mark McGwire, Frank Thomas, and Jeff Bagwell all seemed to have a place in line ahead of Palmeiro, and Giambi was putting up numbers to join them.
What a group. Now McGwire, Giambi and Palmeiro are in limbo, and Thomas's turbulent relationship with the White Sox and the last few seasons of injuries might damn him to the Dale Murphy Wait Till You're Eligible for the Veterans Committee Line. Oh, by the way, there have been whispers about Bagwell and steroids as well, partly because he seemed to come into his power stroke while he was teammates with the late Ken Caminiti in Houston. Maybe there's still hope for Fred McGriff, who fell short of 500 home runs and for that reason alone seemed an unlikely candidate for election to the Hall.
As far as I know Fred was always clean, a good teammate, never too demanding, and a solid fielder. Sure, he got traded a lot, but he was on enough contenders to get 188 postseason at bats, good for 10 home runs, 37 RBI, a .303 average and an OPS of .917. Wouldn't it be sweet justice for McGriff to get in on the first ballot when his time comes? (In case you're curious, in a combined 332 postseason at bats, Big Mac, the Big Hurt, Raffy and Bags put up a paltry 12 home runs and 37 RBI between the four of them).
One thing is certain at this point: this muddy water will not get any clearer anytime soon. Congress is not only investigating Palmeiro on perjury charges, they're looking to have a bigger hand in the administration of baseball's drug policy. Bud Selig says he'd like to see stiffer penalties, but what he really wants is to have this problem taken off of his hands because he doesn't know how to get the players to listen and he has no control over his own offices and the wagging tongues that are leaking information to the press, leaks that have forced the players' union to consider filing a grievance over the matter of that one little word-- stanozolol.
Personally, I'm concerned about investigations by a House committee that can't bring itself to smell the smoking gun of the Valerie Plame case when it's right under its nose. And no one has been able to clear up that leaking of grand jury testimony that gave us the names in the BALCO case. No, this whole stinkin' mess is going to hang around for a while, and in one of those strange coincidences that are a part of this confounding life, on the day that the names Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn appear on Hall of Fame ballots for the first time, the names Caminiti, Canseco and McGwire will be there also, grabbing their share of the headlines.
And there won't be a thing that you or me or Bud or Congress can do about it.
Posted by Andrew Torres at 7:45 AM