To Palmeiro, today's era is naturally the best ever

AL notebook


Former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro knows his name and his lofty statistics will always be held up to the jarring light of the steroid era - especially after testing positive for stanozolol last season. He also understands the numbers of his contemporaries will always be questioned because of when they played.

But know this: Palmeiro believes this generation of ballplayers is the best the sport has ever known, steroid suspicions or not.

"People can say whatever they want to say," Palmeiro said last week in an interview with The Sun. "They try to say this era was a tainted era. But so many great players played in the last 15 to 20 years. This is going to be the best era in the history of the game in my opinion."

The sport and its players continue to evolve and improve, with each generation besting the previous one, he said. So 20 years from now, the next group may steal the crown.

"Baseball gets better for whatever reason," Palmeiro said. "In the next 20 years, we'll argue about it and I'll argue [for] my era."

Debating the merits of past and present is the norm for baseball fans. But it's tough to accurately compare one to another because of the obvious variables. One certainty, however, is that the microscope under which today's players are scrutinized is much sharper.

And that's what makes a part of Palmeiro's saga from 2005 incredible. He confirmed last week that while he was approaching his 3,000th hit on July 15, he and his family were dealing with the daunting secret that he had failed the drug test.

Yet in a 68-game stretch from May 14 through the end of July, Palmeiro batted .310 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs. Critics will say that his performance peaked because he was on steroids, but he said he had a second drug test two weeks after the first - presumably sometime in May - and said he passed that one.

"Whatever was in my body had gone by then," Palmeiro said. "I was dealing with the most unbelievable pressure of my life knowing everything could get destroyed. At same time, I was playing [my] best baseball."

Weekly dose of Guillen

Sometimes the universe's most quotable manager doesn't even need to open his mouth to make headlines. Chicago White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen has been defended by controversial former pitcher John Rocker, and now acid-tongued former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka adds his two cents.

"I really like the guy," Ditka said about Guillen. "He's real people, he's good for baseball and he's really a nice guy, even though he doesn't always say things that are politically correct. But he says what he thinks. He speaks from the heart. And in this day and age, that can be refreshing when people are honest about what they think and feel."

Quick hits

New Tampa Bay Devil Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has made eight trades since December. ... Some Cleveland Indians who could be had at the trade deadline for the right price: closer Bob Wickman, first baseman Ben Broussard, third baseman Aaron Boone and second baseman Ronnie Belliard.

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