Rafael Palmeiro

Wait, someone has evidence that Rafael Palmeiro really was clean and is unwilling to do anything about it?

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John Perrotto of Baseball Prospectus has a Hall of Fame vote and has published a Hall of Fame column, and boy howdy does it have an interesting passage in it regarding Rafael Palmeiro, for whom he is voting:

Rafael Palmeiro: An extremely reliable source—with no ties to Palmeiro—told me an off-the-record story at the Winter Meetings that convinced me that Palmeiro was indeed a clean player and was tricked into using the steroid when he thought he was taking a shot of vitamin B-12 that led to his suspension and end of his career in 2005. Unfortunately, there would be too many legal ramifications to make the story public.

“Legal ramifications?” That’s … interesting. Normally I’d dismiss such stuff out of hand because it’s all so he-said, she-said sounding. But it is probably worth noting that, in Maryland, where Palmeiro was playing at the time of his positive PED test, there is no statute of limitations for felonies so, yes, someone may very well be worried about legal ramifications for assault or whatever you could think to classify drugging someone without their knowledge or consent.

Not that I’m prepared to actually buy this. After all, are we truly to believe that Rafael Palmeiro possesses convincing evidence that one of his teammates (or trainers or whoever) doped him, ending his career, ruining his legacy and putting him at risk of criminal prosecution for lying to Congress and yet Palmeiro is unwilling to say anything about it publicly? The man has became a disgrace and a laughingstock as a result of that positive test. The poster boy for lying cheaters, thanks to that finger-wag while under oath.  Is it reasonable, then, to assume that he has no incentive to clear his name with the convincing story Perrotto was told? He’s worried about someone getting in some relatively minor criminal trouble and is willing to wear the goat horns the rest of his life because of it?

Or I suppose maybe he doesn’t know. In that case, there is apparently someone working in baseball — the guy was at the Winter Meetings after all — with evidence that would clear Palmeiro’s name, yet rather than bring it to anyone’s attention who could do something about it, is simply telling to baseball writers, off the record, over drinks at the lobby bar in the Opryland Hotel. What kind of a person is that?

I don’t know. It all sounds like far-fetched bar talk. I can say this much, though: if there is any truth to this, it brings us back to the old dynamic of the PED story in baseball: people, including writers, knowing what’s really going on, yet no one being all that interested in exposing it. How very shameful. And, in some ways, how very appropriate.

Great Moments in Not Understanding The Rules

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Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is a Hall of Fame voter. In the past he has voted for players who used PEDs, but he’s never been totally happy with it, seeing the whole PED mess as a dilemma for voters.

On the one hand he doesn’t like voting for users and doesn’t like harming those who were clean by shifting votes away from them, but on the other hand, he doesn’t want to pretend history didn’t happen and that baseball hasn’t been filled with cheaters forever. What to do?

This year he decided to abstain altogether. A fair and noble act if one is as conflicted as Livingston happens to be. Except . . . he didn’t actually abstain:

Major league baseball will confer bronzed immortality on a few players Wednesday when the results of the national baseball writers’ balloting for the Hall of Fame will be announced.

I had a 2017 ballot. I returned it signed, but blank, with an explanatory note.

A blank ballot, signed and submitted, is not an abstention. It’s counted as a vote for no one. Each “no” vote increases the denominator in the calculation of whether or not a candidate has received 75% of the vote and has gained induction. An abstention, however, would not. So, in effect, Livingston has voted against all of the players on the ballot, both PED-tainted and clean, even though it appears that that was not his intention.

This is the second time in three years a Cleveland writer has had . . . issues with his Hall of Fame ballot. In the 2014-15 voting period, Paul Hoynes simply lost his ballot. Now Livingston misunderstood how to abstain.

I worry quite often that Ohio is gonna mess up a major election. I guess I’m just worrying about the wrong election.

Hall of Fame voters are making news, not exercising democratic rights

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Last month the Baseball Writers Association of America voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots public beginning with next year’s vote for the 2018 induction class. In the past 24 hours or so, as this year’s Hall of Fame voting period comes to a close, a lot of folks have been talking about that. Most notably in Jayson Stark’s piece over at ESPN regarding next year’s brave new public world.

Stark is pro-transparency on the ballots, as are the vast majority of BBWAA members who voted on the public ballot measure (it passed 80-9). Not everyone Stark quotes in his article is on board with it, though:

“I’ve already seen a lot of people change their votes from one year to the next,” said one of the strongest dissenters to this decision, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “People have changed their votes based on public opinion.”

Two other sources in the story, Scott Miller of Bleacher Report and a voter who asked to remain anonymous equated their Hall of Fame vote with democracy and invoked the sanctity of the secret ballot. “The No. 1 reason I was against this rule is that in this country, it’s a democracy, and everyone has a vote on different things. And I hate to see a blanket rule that forces everyone to go in one direction,” Miller said. Here’s what the anonymous guy said:

“To me, a secret ballot is a fundamental of democracy. You should be able to vote your conscience without having to explain your vote. But once it’s public, you’re open to public pressure. And that’s not what we want in a democracy. We’re not elected representatives. We’re chosen to be part of a voting group.”

This is ridiculous of course. Voting for the Hall of Fame is not exercising democratic rights. It is making news and making history. Hall of Fame voters are making decisions which will fundamentally alter baseball history and which matter greatly to a large number of baseball fans. They are not advancing their own or society’s interests at the ballot box the way citizens do on election day. Despite the fact that the form of their action here is, technically speaking, a ballot, they are making news in the same way a GM makes a news with a trade, the commissioner makes news with a rule change or a team makes news by winning a World Series.

Would any of these voters — who are credentialed members of the media, by the way, and like to style themselves as truth-seeking members of the Fourth Estate — accept silence from the people who make the news on the beat they cover? Would they be content if the newsmakers whose acts they chronicle demanded anonymity the way they themselves do now? Of course they wouldn’t. And if they got the same silent treatment they’d prefer to give, they’d write one of those petulant little columns they love about players who “duck the press” after a game.

Suck it up, journalists. Act the way you expect the newsmakers you cover to act and own your decisions. Don’t pretend for a moment that you’re not the subject of, and not the reporter of, the story when Hall of Fame season comes around.