Rafael Palmeiro discusses Baseball Hall of Fame voting

(Jed Jacobsohn / Getty photo )
January 10, 2013|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

I had a chance to talk to former Oriole Rafael Palmeiro about Wednesday’s Hall of Fame announcement that the Baseball Writers' Association of America did not vote in anyone for the 2013 induction class.

That includes Palmeiro, who was on his third year of the ballot and is one of just four players in the game’s history to have at least 500 homers and 3,000 hits.

He’s also the only one on this year’s ballot to have tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. In 2005, months after he told a congressional committee that he had never taken steroids, a drug test found stanozolol in his system and Major League Baseball suspended him for 10 days.

That was Palmeiro’s last season. He was eligible for the Hall for the first time in 2011 and received 64 votes, or 11 percent of ballots turned in. Last year, he jumped a bit, garnering 72 votes and 12.6 percent. But this year, with a host of strong first-time candidates on the ballot and voters not allowed to check off more than 10 names, Palmeiro dropped to just 8.8 percent and 50 votes.

He’s not sure why 22 fewer voters passed him by this year, assuming it has to do with the quality of the ballot. Next year, another wave of excellent players will be added, including Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina.

Palmeiro realizes he could get less than the 5 percent needed to stay eligible – and so his dream of being in the Hall of Fame would then be in the hands of the Veterans’ Committee.

He says he understands why he isn’t already in Cooperstown. And he has not wavered from the story he told in 2005 – that he did not purposely take steroids, but must have injected a tainted vial of B-12 supplement that he received from teammate Miguel Tejada as an energy boost.

Here’s Palmeiro:

On realizing his vote tally dropped: “I wasn’t even thinking about it. When I was watching (MLB Network) and I first saw the announcement that no one had gotten in, I was really surprised. It didn’t really dawn on me to see how many people had voted for me. And then when they put up the numbers, I was like, ‘Wait a minute. I got 8.8 percent, which was less than last year. I lost support. I lost a lot of people who voted for me last year.’ That was a little bit surprising, but it’s not unexpected, I guess, I’ve seen what has happened with (Mark) McGwire and now I am understanding a little bit more about how the voting works. With more people on the ballot that are going to get more votes, some guys may say, ‘OK, I’m going to have to change my vote from Palmeiro to Bagwell or Biggio or make room for others.’ So I guess that is maybe what happened. Maybe they thought, ‘Hey, he just doesn’t deserve to be in it.’ But I still got 50 votes. I have to look at it from the positive side.”

On his chances: “I think there are still people out there that aren’t looking at what happened to me at the end of my career, but are looking at my whole body of work. And I appreciate that. And to the people that don’t, the people that look at it from the standpoint of, ‘Hey, he tested positive for something and there’s no way they are going to put him in. That’s fine. I respect that, too.’”

On whether he’s bothered by voters changing their ballots: “No, because there are more people that are more worthy than I am. I mean, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, those two guys are, I think, probably the best two players that have ever played the game and happen to be in the same era. So, no, I don’t have a problem with guys getting the votes over me, because, yeah, they were better. That’s fine. The one (thing) that is hard is the one where they are not giving me or any of the other guys slack (on the steroids issue). Especially me, because I keep looking back at that incident and what happened to me was basically at the end of my career. I had already hit 3,000 hits (at the time of his suspension) and had 500 home runs. They can use it against me. But it was at the end of my career and it was basically a lack of due diligence on my part and I basically ruined my career over a mistake that really shouldn’t have happened. But that’s the way it is.”

On the steroid test tainting his legacy: “I live with it every day. There’s nothing I can do about that. But I can see if I did something at the beginning of my career or the middle of my career and the change in my production was so overwhelming that people were like, ‘Whoa, we’ve got to watch this guy.’ But that never happened. My improvements were gradual improvements throughout the years based on the efforts and hard work I put into the game. Unfortunately, I made a mistake at the end and it basically wiped out everything that I had did for 20 years. And that’s unfortunate.”

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