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Hall of Fame Vote 2013: Why Rafael Palmeiro Deserves to Be in Cooperstown

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Hall of Fame Vote 2013: Why Rafael Palmeiro Deserves to Be in Cooperstown

Lying to Congress doesn't really work well for anybody. 

That's a big hurdle for Rafael Palmeiro to overcome as voters mull over whether or not he should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Seeing someone actually lie—and even worse, acting indignant about accusations that were obviously true—is a hard image to shake. We've all seen video or photos of Palmeiro pointing his finger at a congressional panel in 2005, saying, "I have never used steroids. Period."

Five months later, Palmeiro tested positive for steroids, one of the all-time facepalm moments in the history of baseball. 

To this day, Palmeiro insists that he didn't knowingly use steroids. In past interviews, he's maintained that a tainted B-12 shot given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada is what caused the positive test. (Trying to bring someone else down with him likely didn't win Palmeiro any sympathy either.) 

Perhaps the closest Palmeiro has come to an admission was in August when the Texas Rangers honored their 40th anniversary team. Speaking with Fox Sports Southwest, the former Rangers first baseman mentioned "a mistake in judgment that I made near the end of my career."

What "mistake in judgment" could that have been?

Palmeiro has been exposed as a liar and continues to keep the charade going when he would surely earn forgiveness if he just confessed and showed some remorse. Look at Mark McGwire. Maybe admitting steroid use won't help his Hall of Fame chances, but at least he's expressed some regret for his actions.

But here's the thing about Palmeiro: His numbers should get him into the Baseball Hall of Fame anyway. 

Not Rafael Palmeiro's finest moment. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Palmeiro has 3,020 hits for his career, ranking 25th on MLB's all-time list. With 569 home runs, he has the 12th-highest total in baseball history. He also has 1,835 RBI, good for 16th all time. Those numbers are about as automatic as it should get for induction into Cooperstown.

Everyone ahead of Palmeiro on the career hits list is in the Hall of Fame except for Craig Biggio (who could be voted in for 2013), Derek Jeter (who's a shoo-in first-ballot vote when he's eligible) and Pete Rose (who is a different story altogether). 

As ESPN's Tim Kurkjian points out, only eight players in MLB history have 3,000 hits and 1,800 RBI. Palmeiro is also the only player to hit at least 38 home runs and compile 100 RBI in nine consecutive seasons. (If you're curious, Palmeiro did this from 1995 to 2003.)

Of course, many will wonder how many of those seasons were fueled by performance-enhancing substances. Regardless of what Palmeiro might say about it, how could anyone believe him? 

From a baseball standpoint, Palmeiro probably loses the "best-at-his-position" argument, which is a starting point for some when discussing Hall of Fame merits.

He never finished higher than fifth on an AL MVP ballot. He was named to only four AL All-Star teams. Frank Thomas was arguably a better designated hitter. Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell were more popular players. 

Regardless, Palmeiro really has no chance of being voted into baseball's Hall of Fame. On the 2012 ballot, in his second year of eligibility, Palmeiro only received 12.6 percent of the vote. A player needs 75 percent to win induction into Cooperstown. 

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Rafael Palmeiro's swing was a thing of beauty to watch.

That's not an impossible deficit to overcome, but it's pretty close.

Can Palmeiro really gain more than 60 percent of the vote—depending on what percentage he receives in 2013—in his remaining 12 years on the ballot? It seems very unlikely. 

Consider the stance of legendary baseball writer Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News

"Not now, not ever," McCoy told USA Today's Peter Barzilai in 2010. "I would have voted for him; 569 home runs, 3,020 hits—those are Hall of Fame numbers, but those numbers were enhanced by steroids. I've set my personal policy, and I won't vote for him."

That is probably not a minority opinion among Hall of Fame voters.

Many balloters won't touch Palmeiro, just as no MLB team would go near him after the 2005 season, during which he tested positive for steroids. Palmeiro turned 40 that year, but had a respectable season, batting .266 with a .786 OPS, 18 home runs and 60 RBI. 

Back then, players were only suspended 10 days for a positive steroid test. But after he returned from that suspension, Palmeiro played only seven more games for the Baltimore Orioles. His MLB career was over. 

Five years later, he and one of the sweetest left-handed swings baseball has ever seen should have been making a speech in Cooperstown. In that setting, perhaps Palmeiro would have confessed his mistake, shown remorse for lying and cheating. It could have been a signature moment in Hall of Fame history.

Instead, Palmeiro sticks to his denials. They're a poor replacement for a Hall of Fame plaque. 

 

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