When results of the 2011 Hall of Fame election are announced at 2 p.m. today, it's likely that a key member of the Orioles' last playoff team will be chosen for induction while another will be left out despite impressive on-field credentials.
Second baseman Roberto Alomar, who was a 12-time All-Star, including in each of his three seasons in Baltimore, fell just eight votes short of induction by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on his first attempt last year.
It would be highly surprising if Alomar and former big league pitcher Bert Blyleven, who fell five votes short in 2010, did not receive the 75 percent needed for enshrinement.
But it likely will be a different situation for Alomar's teammate on the 1996-1998 Orioles, first baseman Rafael Palmeiro.
"Robbie, I was surprised he didn't get in on the first ballot. I definitely think he should be in; he's one of the greatest all-around players I have ever seen," former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick said. "Raffy's numbers are incredible, too; definitely his numbers are deserving to be in there, too. But obviously, with the steroid stuff, I think there is going to be a lot of guys that don't get in because of that."
Palmeiro retired from the Orioles in 2005 after a splendid 20-season career in which he became just the fourth player in big league history with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs -- joining three Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and former Oriole Eddie Murray.
Yet, for many voters, there is one statistic that is impossible to ignore on Palmeiro's resume: one failed drug test. In August 2005, months after wagging his finger while telling a congressional committee he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs, Palmeiro became baseball's first big name to be suspended for failing a drug test.
He tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, an easily detectable drug that, to this day, he says he did not purposely inject into his system. He maintains that a vial of liquid vitamin B-12, which he says he received from teammate Miguel Tejada to help him combat fatigue, must have been inadvertently tainted when he injected it.
"It's not a story I made up," Palmeiro said Tuesday. "It is exactly what happened to me. I took B-12 I got from a teammate, I took it to my house and my wife gave me an injection and I threw the stuff away, and that was the end of it. ÃƒÂ‚Ã‚Â… A week after the positive test, I took another test and it came back negative. Whatever was in my body was there for a short period of time, and I played the rest of the season clean or whatever you want to call it. But I am sure that doesn't matter. A positive test is a positive test."
The explanation doesn't seem to matter to many voters.
"At the moment, I cannot vote for any player who tested positive and served a suspension for PEDs after the steroid policy was put into place," Nick Cafardo, The Boston Globe's national baseball writer, wrote in an e-mail this offseason. "Rafael Palmeiro certainly has the credentials to be a Hall of Famer, but his positive test and suspension, which came to light in 2005 after denying steroid use before Congress, has forced me to place my vote for him to Cooperstown on hold."
Said Chicago Tribune national baseball writer Phil Rogers in an e-mail: "I'm not voting for Raffy, even though I'd love to. The standard I've adopted on PEDs is that I won't vote for a player who is directly linked to them, and you can't be more linked to them than to be suspended for a positive test."
That seems to be the overriding opinion, though a few voters, such as ESPN's Buster Olney and USA Today's Bob Nightengale, have gone on record as saying the failed test did not prevent them from supporting Palmeiro's candidacy. (The individual ballots are not made public; it's up to the writer to decide whether to reveal his or her vote.)
Said Palmeiro: "I've told everybody that maybe I didn't do a good job in the beginning explaining what happened, but, regardless, it is unfortunate that in the end of my career to have something like that happen after I had reached the 500 home-run milestone and was within 30 or 40 hits of getting 3,000 [when he failed the test in May]. For something to happen like that to me is unbelievable; it is beyond belief. It's almost like assuming a death sentence, like getting the death penalty."
The case closest to Palmeiro's is that of slugger Mark McGwire, who would not address his alleged steroid usage during the 2005 congressional hearing but later admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs during his playing career. Despite his 583 career home runs, 10th best in baseball history, McGwire received just 23.7 percent of the vote in 2010, his fourth year on the ballot.