Palmeiro saga enters theater of the absurd

September 23, 2005|By RICK MAESE

So Act II begins as a flashback sequence. We see Rafael Palmeiro, the embattled protagonist sitting in a closed room, pleading his case before a three-person arbitration committee.

He knew what was on the line: his reputation, his baseball legacy, his spot in the Hall of Fame alongside the game's immortals.

The positive steroid test had already tainted all that. But what he said could have been even more damaging.

It was a tainted supplement, Raffy insinuated to those three people. I didn't think it was bad, he said. And then the knockout blow - Miguel Tejada is the one who gave it to me, he said.

So now Tejada - the strongest pillar of the entire organization during this stomach-turning summer - is involved, too.

According to Orioles officials, vitamin B12 was the substance that Tejada offered to Palmeiro. The vitamin is not an illegal steroid, but is used by some athletes to help with workouts.

The story shifted. Last month it was akin to a Shakespearean tragedy. Suddenly, it feels like we're watching Three's Company on Nick at Nite, and the whole gang has found itself embroiled in this slapstick plot.

If there's one thing to cling to, it's this: With Palmeiro delivering the story, there's plenty of room for error. Period.

So many pieces here don't make sense. Since Palmeiro still won't formally share his side of the story, we have to connect the dots, forced to leap over the gigantic holes in logic.

Palmeiro's attorneys issued a carefully worded statement late last night, saying their client "has never implicated any player in the intentional use or distribution of steroids."

But Palmeiro brought it up in that meeting for a reason. Though he didn't say it precisely, he seemed to think that the B12 might have been what triggered the positive steroid test.

Of course, several published reports have since indicated that he was busted for stanozolol, an illegal steroid. Funny how that apparently wasn't mentioned to the arbitrators.

Palmeiro's defense still leaves us scratching our heads. I'm not a lawyer, but it doesn't strike me as the smartest defense maneuvering to suggest that you injected something into your body but not offer it up as an excuse. According to people familiar with the player's testimony, Palmeiro did not specifically blame the B12 for the failed steroid test.

So it makes you wonder, if he didn't put much weight into the B12 injection, why share it at all, and why name a teammate?

The story is suspect. I have a hard time picturing Palmeiro sitting in the Orioles' clubhouse one spring day - complaining about a sore back - when Tejada looked at him with that friendly smile.

Can you hear Tejada saying, "Take this, Raffy. And call me in the middle of the seventh?"

The defense is ridiculous. Think of it in practical terms. A professional athlete who has spent four decades depending on his body as his livelihood knows what goes into his body.

Sources didn't initially disclose Tejada's name, saying that Palmeiro fingered an unnamed teammate. So for 24 hours, Orioles fans were left staring at the roster. The little voice in the back of their head pleading, "Please don't be Miggy. Anyone else, but not Miggy."

Despite Raffy's silly story, I'm still only convinced of one person's guilt.

With Palmeiro, you're wasting time trying to figure out what to believe and what not to believe. It all looks like dark shades of fiction now.

Even those who are privy to Palmeiro's private statements call them "confusing."

His impassioned words before Congress seem so laughable now. Palmeiro is no tragic hero. He's a comedic straight man.

Tejada shouldn't be a character in this escalating fiasco. The Orioles keep waiting for it be over.

Act I brought us conflict, and Act II was farce. Hopefully, the real tragedy isn't waiting in Act III.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

Red Sox @ Orioles

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Starters: Red Sox's Bronson Arroyo (13-9, 4.31) vs. Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (10-11, 4.68)

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