Sorry, Palmeiro, you got greedy, so 'your' Rangers got Clark

November 24, 1993|By Gil LeBreton | Gil LeBreton,Fort Worth Star-Telegram

ARLINGTON -- Don't go away mad, Rafael Palmeiro. Just go away.

Go away rich. Because that was the Palmeiro Plan all along, no matter what Rafael was saying out of several sides of his mouth on Monday.

With Palmeiro's harsh and accusing words still ringing in their ears, Rangers management gathered at The Ballpark yesterday to introduce the new first baseman, Will Clark.

Or, as Palmeiro called him, "a low-life."

Standing behind the podium was Rangers president Tom Schieffer -- or as Palmeiro had called him, "a backstabbing liar."

There are exits, and then there are exits. But Palmeiro's farewells Monday set a new low, even for a professional ballplayer.

Don't kid yourself, people. This wasn't about loyalty or truth or whether Rangers management respected Palmeiro's abilities. This was about greed, and a player who foolishly tried to squeeze every dime from a situation that he could.

Palmeiro was a popular Ranger. But, frankly, so was Pete O'Brien, and somehow the franchise moved along without old Pete.

Palmeiro compiled some nice 1993 statistics. But, frankly, after all these seasons, the only statistic that matters to Rangers fans is that Texas, again, didn't finish in first place.

Palmeiro also had made a nice home here. That's heartwarming. He can stay here, and be neighbors with Bobby Witt, Pete Incaviglia, Jeff Russell and all the other well-liked ex-Rangers who have made this area their permanent home.

But, frankly, if a player's family and home were so important, why would he allow himself to browse the free-agent market in the first place? I have to wonder why, when Schieffer offered $26.5 million over five years, Palmeiro didn't see the roots of a contract settlement that would have kept his family ensconced and secure.

Palmeiro talked Monday about loyalty and the franchise's lack of a commitment to winning. Yet, at the same time, he had to know how urgent a timetable Rangers management was under. The first-base decision was going to affect the Julio Franco decision, which was going to affect the No. 4 starting pitcher decision, which was all going to affect who plays right field.

But Palmeiro, even after being reminded of the time constraints, still hasn't begun to visit free-agent cities. Agent Jim Bronner suggested to Schieffer last Friday that they may tour one new team per week.

In essence, Palmeiro getting his money was more important to Rafael than this team doing what it takes to secure a pennant-winner.

If the Rangers had waited, Clark's news conference yesterday would have been in Baltimore. And the Rangers would have been even further away from signing Palmeiro, who could have interpreted Clark's departure from the free-agent scene as more leverage for his cause.

Blame will be focused on Bronner, for misreading the peculiar nature of the 1993 free-agent market -- for misreading the Rangers, period. But last time I checked, Rafael Palmeiro was 29 years old -- old enough not to let an agent lead him blindly off to Baltimore.

The contrasts have been interesting. There was Clark at the microphone yesterday, saying the main reason he chose Texas was the "commitment by upper management." There was Clark, praising his former team, the Giants, and asserting he understood what they had to do.

And there was Clark, saying of Palmeiro, his former Mississippi State teammate, "I respect Rafael Palmeiro both as an athlete and a person. I have nothing but good things to say about him."

It was a classy introduction. And I used to think Palmeiro was a classy guy, too. Until Monday.

Palmeiro's bitter suggestion that Clark had no business signing with "his" team is about as ridiculous a remark ever uttered by a pro athlete -- no small claim.

My, though, Palmeiro is proud of his 1993 statistics. Rangers fans will recall, however, that on Sept. 13, Texas stood just 2 1/2 games out of first place. The race was on. And from that point until the end of the season, Palmeiro batted .164.

Clark, meanwhile, has been in two National League playoffs and in the 1989 World Series. His '93 Giants team won 103 games and chased the Atlanta Braves to the wire, while Clark had 20 hits in his final 43 at-bats.

Palmeiro need not have left the Rangers. In his anger this week, perhaps he will realize that.

All Rangers fans surely wish him good luck.

After Monday, I'm tempted to say good riddance.

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