Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun asks whether Rafael Palmeiro is going to fall off the Hall of Fame ballot. And he lands where I land: probably.
As Connolly notes, Palmeiro’s support in his three years on the ballot is not trending in a good direction for him. In his first year of eligibility he was named on 11 percent of the ballots. In his second he actually ticked up to 12.6 percent. Last year, however, he was down to 8.8 percent. And this year at least three likely inductees — Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas — join the ballot. Even those voters sympathetic to Mr. Palmeiro are going to run out of room on their ballots eventually, and my guess is that he’ll fall below the 5 percent requirement to stay on following this year’s vote.
Which will be kinda weird for a guy who finished above 500 homers and 3,000 hits while playing a nifty first base before switching to DH. But two forces are conspiring to, quite understandably, shove him off the ballot.
The first one is obvious. Palmeiro was the first famous flunker of a PED test. While that may not one day be the Hall of Fame Death sentence it is today, being a trailblazer in this department is not a good thing, and that would be the case even if he didn’t wag his finger at Congress while proclaiming he was clean just prior to failing the drug test.
But the second reason is just as significant: PEDs aside, Palmeiro doesn’t necessarily profile as a fantastic Hall of Fame candidate compared to his peers.
Yes, he has the big numbers, and I think absent the PED stuff no one would be arguing that they weren’t Hall of Fame worthy. But think about how stacked first base was during his career. Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas were clearly better. Mark McGwire was more famous and, in the minds of most, better. Palmeiro made just four All-Star teams and finished in the top 5 in MVP balloting just once. That’s still a heck of a career, but it speaks to a guy who wasn’t thought of as the best or even one of the handful of best players in the league most of his career. Add in his mostly hitter-friendly home ballparks and you could construct an argument that his numbers were more inflated by the era in which he played than a lot of guys.
I’m not saying it’s a strong argument. Looking at Palmeiro’s splits you see that he wasn’t as aided by those hitter-friendly parks in Texas and Baltimore as you might first suspect. And while he didn’t have the top-five finishes he had several top-10s. And while he wouldn’t be in the top half of all of the first basemen ever inducted into the Hall of Fame based on the numbers, he wouldn’t be the worst first basemen ever inducted either.
So, not a slam dunk no for Palmeiro, but it’s enough of an argument where, even if you don’t think that a positive PED test disqualifies someone from Hall of Fame consideration, you can say that in a tough balloting environment he’s one of the guys who don’t make your 10-player cut, 500 homers and 3,000 hits or not. In my Hall of Fame list he doesn’t make the top 10, even if I would have him in the Hall of Fame in an ideal world. And if we play the “this guy should go in before that guy” game Bagwell, Thomas and McGwire all seem like better first base choices than does Palmeiro.
Just a perfect storm blowing in Palmerio’s face, really. And because of it this will likely be the last year that Hall of Fame voters get a chance to consider his likely doomed candidacy.