Snubbed Palmeiro tries to hide pain Lack of votes hurts more than Hargrove's decision

Sidelight

July 02, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro tried to say all the right things yesterday after his annual All-Star Game snub.

But it was impossible.

The scars are just too deep and the hurt is too obvious.

The fans virtually ignored him again, giving the hot-hitting Palmeiro only 601,923 votes for seventh place among American League first basemen, and AL manager Mike Hargrove chose Mo Vaughn as a backup yesterday to Jim Thome.

"What's more disappointing than not being named to the team is that I didn't get more votes," Palmeiro said. "There were something like 36 dates for the fans to vote. All I can do now is relax and play with my kids for three days during the break and not think about baseball."

Although Palmeiro did not directly criticize Orioles fans for their part in the All-Star voting, second baseman Roberto Alomar said Palmeiro is disappointed by a possible lack of hometown support.

"Raffy's been good to the city, inside and out of the game," said Alomar, who was voted a starter for the AL team. "He's good for the community. He's supposed to be there in the All-Star Game. I know he's worked hard and put up the numbers."

Palmeiro, 33, who has never made the All-Star team while wearing an Orioles uniform, raised his average to .300 last night with two singles and a home run in four at-bats against the Florida Marlins. He has 25 home runs, third-best in the American League, 70 RBIs and a .590 slugging percentage.

Palmeiro also was chosen yesterday as American League Player of the Month for June.

He led the league last month in hits with 41, in slugging percentage with a .739 mark, was tied for the lead in RBIs with 29, and was second in home runs with 12.

Also, Palmeiro leads all major-league players in total bases in the 1990s with 2,607, but has only been an All-Star once in this decade.

Palmeiro was a reserve in the 1991 All-Star Game, the year he hit .322 for the Rangers. He was also a reserve for the National League All-Star team in 1988 when he batted .307 for the Chicago Cubs.

"I wasn't the only one left out," said Palmeiro as he tried to make peace with the fans and Hargrove's decision.

Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles said, "I think he's been snubbed more than once. For some reason, people don't hear that much about Rafael. Maybe he's not marketed enough. When you say the Orioles, the first name people think of is Cal Ripken and they say let's vote for Cal, Brady Anderson or Robbie."

Anderson was not chosen this season after making the All-Star team three of the past six seasons, though he did finish fifth among all outfielders (with more than 300,000 more votes than Palmeiro) despite a .213 average.

When Palmeiro was asked about the lack of a high public profile, he said, "That's part of it. I'm not marketed enough. But that's not why I play this game."

Orioles manager Ray Miller didn't want to venture a guess as to why Palmeiro was not selected by Hargrove.

"You have to ask the guy who selected the team," said Miller. "I know there's a lot of money involved for a lot of players who make the All-Star team."

There's still a chance, however, that Palmeiro will take Coors Field in Denver for Tuesday night's 69th All-Star Game. Vaughn is being limited by a strained hamstring.

"If the game was right now, I'd be sitting," Vaughn, who has not played since last Friday, said last night. "If it's better for me to sit down and take three days to make sure I'm ready to go to Baltimore [to begin the second half], I'll do that."

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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