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 next might have been even more damaging.

It was an illegal supplement, Raffy told those three people. I didn't know it was bad, he said. And then the knockout blow - according to sources, he said a teammate is the one who gave it to him.

Depending on that name, the Orioles" organization, which is still in the midst of a stomach-turning summer, could delve even deeper into the inferno.

The story has 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.

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. So many pieces here don't make sense.

Sources indicate that in his meeting with the arbitrators, Palmeiro was referring to an illegal Vitamin B12 supplement. Yet according to numerous published reports, Major League Baseball busted him for using a steroid called stanozolol.

So then did Palmeiro really offer a defense that includes his admission to a second instance of steroid use? I'm not a lawyer, but that doesn't strike me as the smartest maneuvering.

And while he didn't say that his teammate had any knowledge of what was being shared, why would Palmeiro implicate another player at all?

The story is suspect. I have a hard time picturing Palmeiro sitting in the clubhouse one spring day, maybe complaining about a sore back, when a friendly teammate reaches into his private stash of illegal supplements.

Can you hear any of the Orioles saying, "Take two of these, Raffy. And call me in the middle of the seventh?'

Think of it in practical terms. A professional athlete who has spent four decades depending on his body as his livelihood would not pop a foreign object simply because a teammate suggested it.

And who exactly are we to think was Palmeiro's clubhouse dealer?

I guess we"re to assume that Sammy Sosa reached into his locker, past all the foot ointments and grabbed his Costco-sized barrel of Winstrol.

Or maybe B.J Surhoff was itching for more playing time and spiked Raffy's coffee.

Of course, it could"ve been Sidney Ponson. That prankster could"ve had a hidden stash up in one of the club suites.

Sources didn't initially disclose the teammate's name. So Orioles fans were left staring at the roster.

Team officials can't say for certain whether or not another Orioles player is currently under investigation.

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.

It's time for Arn Tellem, the player's agent, to call the Surreal Life producers. Palmeiro's status as a marginal Hall of Famer has come undone.

We can only chuckle out of frustration as he gives us pieces to different puzzles. We stare at these pieces, flipping them, turning them and bending them. But none of them fit together.

We still need to hear more of the story. But depending on what exactly Palmeiro told that three-person committee, we might find that the conflict was in Act I, Act II brought us farce and the real tragedy lies in Act III.

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