In lesson for Palmeiro, O's get to point, limit Tejada fallout

September 24, 2005|By JOHN EISENBERG

Jim Beattie told the truth as he knew it Thursday night, and though the story was far from pretty, it saved the Orioles and Miguel Tejada a lot of trouble.

Jason Giambi also apparently told the truth in 2003 when he admitted using steroids to a grand jury. His revelation eventually caused him pain and embarrassment when it was leaked to journalists, but Giambi has endured, and in fact, rebounded to have a strong season for the Yankees.

The truth, unambiguous and undeniable, seldom evidences itself in this murky steroids scandal, now engulfing the Orioles.

But it has had a positive effect when it does.

Rafael Palmeiro could be sorry if he never figures that out.

Since the news broke about his positive test, he has alternately offered vague explanations, claimed to be an unwitting victim and insisted he would get around to telling his side of the story. While we wait (still) for that to happen, his reputation has been destroyed.

Radio talk-show callers and Internet posters were calling him Ratty Palmeiro yesterday after it was learned he had implicated Tejada during an appeals hearing in July, telling investigators the Orioles shortstop gave him vitamin B-12, a legal substance.

On one nationwide radio show, listeners were asked if they thought Pete Rose or Palmeiro had fallen further from grace. There's no coming back from that level of ignominy. His failure to take responsibility for his actions or even address them has done as much damage as the positive test itself.

The Orioles' handling of the potentially combustible Tejada side story is a diametrically different tale, offering a lesson in how to save yourself by telling the truth, or at least as much of the truth as you know.

All day Thursday, rumors swirled about Palmeiro's having named a teammate in July. But the teammate's identity wasn't nailed down, and neither were the details of what Palmeiro claimed the teammate had done.

As all that was finally becoming public Thursday night, Beattie, the Orioles' executive vice president, jumped in with an air-clearing statement. Yes, it was Tejada that Palmeiro named. Yes, the shortstop gave Palmeiro a dose of B-12 and then was investigated himself - and cleared.

It was a smart, proactive move by a front office that has seldom been seen or heard as the Orioles' 2005 season has unraveled on and off the field. They were ahead of the story for a change.

"If you don't have anything to hide, you can just come out and say what happened," Beattie said yesterday. "Miggy had the stuff, yeah. He used it, yeah. He gave it to Palmeiro, yeah. But he was investigated and found to be telling the right story. That's the end of it."

To call it the "end" of the story is, of course, premature. The scenario that clears Tejada has its share of holes, too.

If, for instance, he gave B-12 to Palmeiro "a long time ago" (his words) and investigators didn't find out about it until July, it's quite possible they didn't test the same B-12 supply. Who really knows if the B-12 that went to Palmeiro earlier was clean?

Beattie acknowledged the gap in the timeline yesterday, but he rightfully said it was irrelevant because baseball's Health Policy Advisory Committee, which oversees its drug testing plan, had investigated and cleared Tejada.

"All I can tell you is the people who investigated him were satisfied to the point that he was cleared," Beattie said. "How they came to their conclusion, I have no idea. I'm still trying to get a handle on how it all worked and how it came down. But he was cleared."

Tejada himself filled in some of the details yesterday. He didn't hide behind a conference call or let his attorneys speak for him. Before the game against the Red Sox at Camden Yards, he sat down with reporters for 10 minutes and explained that he obtained the B-12 in the Dominican Republic and gave it to Palmeiro only once.

"I know I'm clean. I've never tested positive for steroids," he said. "But now that my name has come up, I don't know what people are going to think."

The image of their best player walking around with a syringe is hardly one the Orioles want to promote.

But while the truth surely can hurt, it also can set you free.

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