Texas Rangers’ Rafael Palmeiro waves goodbye to Hall of Fame

The 2014 MLB Hall of Fame class was announced yesterday with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas receiving enough votes to be inducted. One player on the ballot who did not receive enough votes was Texas Ranger’s former superstar Rafael Palmeiro.

raffy-pThis was Palmeiro’s fourth appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. His previous three appearances ended with 12.6 percent of votes in 2011, 11 percent  in 2012, and 8.8 percent in 2013. The minimum percentage of votes required to admit a player into the Hall of Fame is 75 percent, a seemingly unreachable goal for the deescalating left-handed slugger. Palmeiro received 4.4 percent of the votes in the 2014 ballot. Since he was a recipient of fewer than 5 percent of votes he falls off future ballots and loses his remote opportunity to ever join the Hall of Fame.

However, Rafael Palmeiro surely boasts numbers that should, on paper, place him in Cooperstown. His illustrious 20-season career ended with 3,020 hits, 569 home runs, and a .288 batting average. He was the fourth player in MLB history to record more than 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. The other three players: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray are all Hall of Famers. Before the current era of baseball, admittance into either the 500 home run club or the 3,000 hits club with a sure ticket into the Hall of Fame. However, there are currently five 500 home run club players who have not been voted into the Hall of Fame: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Palmeiro.

Palmeiro-CubsDrafted by the Chicago Cubs as the 22nd overall pick in the 1985 draft, Palmeiro’s career got off to a hot start when he was the runner up for the National League batting title in 1988, hitting .307 on the season (six points behind Tony Gwynn). After the ’88 season Palmeiro was traded to the Texas Rangers. For Texas, Palmeiro played first base and designated hitter. He led the MLB in hits in the 1990 season and in doubles in the 1991 season.

However, the black mark on Rafael Palmeiro’s record created by his 2005 PED scandal becomes apparent beginning with the 1995 season. Prior to 1995, Palmeiro had only ever hit more than 30 home runs in a single season once (hitting 37 homers in ’93). Starting with the 1995 season, Rafael went on a streak of hitting 38 or more home runs every season for nine years. While at the time this blast of offensive power distinguished Palmeiro amongst the masses and positioned him as one of the most influential players of the era, it must be questioned whether performance enhancing drugs were the backbone of his success.

On March 17, 2005, Rafael appeared at a Congressional hearing and, while under oath, stated, “Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.” On August 1, 2005 Palmeiro was suspended 10 games for testing positive for steroids. To this day Palmeiro refutes any steroid charges against him saying in 2006, “It’s not a story; it’s the reality of what happened.” “I said what I said before Congress because I meant every word of it.”

Although the masses are of the opinion that Palmeiro did indeed take steroids during his MLB career, for me it is still difficult to see the Hall of Fame brush aside such accomplishments. Surely the up-and-coming generation of Hall of Fame ballot voters will have to answer the Steroid Era questions with each and every ballot. I am not going to say that Palmeiro belongs in the Hall of Fame, because there is substantial enough evidence to claim that he did use PED’s. However, if other “juiced” players ever do gain admittance, I believe that the Palmeiro case should be reevaluated.

“I’ll look at the bright side,” Palmeiro said when asked about the ballot results. “I’ll be eligible in [12] years, and maybe at that point things are a lot different and people see it in a different light. I’m disappointed. I am not going to lie. I won’t say I was hoping for a miracle and that I’d get elected, but I was hoping to stay on it a little longer.”