Palmeiro needs to inject some answers now

Commentary

September 25, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

So, here's the scenario that put Rafael Palmeiro back on the front of every sports page in America.

He was feeling a little fatigued back in April or early May -- after all, the season was already several weeks old -- and he mentioned it to fellow superstar Miguel Tejada, who is nothing if not a caring guy who would do anything to help a struggling teammate.

Tejada reached into his locker and pulled out a bottle of injectable Vitamin B-12 and handed it to the now-41-year-old first baseman, who thought to himself ... "Hmmm. A bottle of non-descript injectable liquid from a pharmacy in the Dominican Republic. What could possibly go wrong?"

From every indication, the substance in question actually was just Vitamin B-12, but this tawdry little vignette should tell you a lot about the guy who wants you to believe that he -- and I'm quoting now from his Aug. 1 news conference -- "would have to be crazy to take steroids."

Crazy works for me. If someone offered me a vial of anything from an offshore pharmacy, even somebody with the clubhouse credibility of Tejada, I would at least be skeptical enough to ask one basic question:

"I'm not going to go schizo or anything, am I?"

OK, that was a cheap line drop from Animal House, but you get the idea.

Palmeiro insisted two months ago that there was no way he would have done anything to endanger his Hall of Fame credentials, but he was more than willing to shoot up a little bootleg B-12 to get an early season boost, which leaves room to wonder what else he might have been willing to do to break out of a frustrating slump when he was so close to his 3,000th hit.

It's all starting to make sense, even without the shady revelation in Jose Canseco's book that Palmeiro was using Stanozolol way back in the early 1990s, but a lot of what follows still is just educated speculation.

Raffy came back from a disappointing 2004 season and struggled badly out of the gate in April. He probably figured that since he had just been tested for steroids in spring training and he had just pointed his finger at the House Committee on Government Reform and convinced everyone that he had never, ever used steroids, what were the odds that anybody would test him again during the first couple months of the season?

Turned out, of course, that the odds were pretty good, so he appealed his positive drug test and went in front of the arbitration board and threw another superstar name into the mix, no doubt praying that Major League Baseball would quickly realize how damaging the whole situation might be if it ever became public. Bad idea.

The identification of Tejada -- even without directly linking him to any wrongdoing -- was such an egregious breach of clubhouse protocol that it may have wiped away what little chance remained of Palmeiro getting an opportunity to play somewhere next season.

From the start, it has been one serious miscalculation after another. Palmeiro squandered any chance of creating plausible deniability when he trotted out his I-wish-I-could-tell-you defense on the day that his 10-day steroid suspension was announced. The claim that he was prevented from saying anything to clear his name by some unenforceable confidentiality agreement didn't pass the smell test.

It just made things worse when his agent, Arn Tellem, announced the night before Raffy rejoined the team that he would have to delay his explanation until after Congress completed its perjury investigation. The dissembling continued right up to the Tejada revelation, which cost Palmeiro his few remaining defenders in the clubhouse and led club officials to pull the plug on his return for the final 10 days of the season.

The carefully worded statement released by his lawyers on Thursday night, in which they insisted that he never implicated anyone in any "illegal" activity, only reinforced the notion that Palmeiro has spent this whole sorry episode hiding behind his high-priced handlers. That isn't proof of guilt, but it sure doesn't lend itself to any presumption of innocence.

Palmeiro lawyered up and found himself being advised to act like a common criminal instead of a future Hall of Famer with a legacy to salvage. He had the right to remain silent. It just wasn't a very good idea.

He would have been better off pleading insanity.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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