Flinder Boyd of Fox wrote a long, in-depth piece about Rafael Palmeiro in which, for the first time, Palmeiro goes into great detail about his life and the days after he tested positive for PEDs. It was then his career, for all intents and purposes, ended and then that his reputation was forever ruined.
It was also then that Palmeiro spiraled into depression:
After the Orioles let him go, Palmeiro tried to stay in shape, hoping for an offer the next year, but no one was willing to take a flyer on a 40-year-old with a steroid past. When he knew his agent wasn’t going to call, the full force of shame struck him head on, and he retreated inside his palatial estate in the Dallas suburbs. His TV would flicker in his room, but he rarely watched it.
“I was done with baseball. I hated it,” he says. “It wasn’t like I had a void, like ‘what do I do now,’ it was, ‘let’s see if I survive today.'”
For the past decade he has dealt with depression. Even today, he can find hope in life with his sons and family, but doesn’t know what his own future holds. He is still lost and, it would appear, still battling depression.
People are entitled to think less of Rafael Palmeiro because of his PED test. People are allowed to discount his accomplishments. A lot of the story is framed around Palmeiro’s belief that he was a Hall of Famer and when he was given almost no support in the Hall of Fame vote, it triggered another downward spiral for him. But still: no one is entitled to a Hall of Fame vote and it’s understandable if people do not have sympathy for Palmeiro over his low vote totals.
That said: because he was the first high-profile player to test positive for PEDs and because it came so soon after his infamous appearance before Congress, the pile-on on Palmeiro was intense and, in some ways, continues to be far greater for him than it has been for almost any other player. While no one can take issue with baseball wanting to rid itself of PEDs, the moralism and shaming and demonizing and vilifying of those players who used PEDs that accompanied those efforts was and continues to be a disgrace. This is especially true for players of Palmeiro’s era, who have been treated like caricatures and, in some cases, punching bags while current players, now that PED testing has become normal, are welcomed back into the fold with little or no comment or concern.
As I said, we can think less of Palmerio’s baseball accomplishments because of the PEDs, but the way in which he and others were made into villains is a far greater wrong. Baseball rules are baseball rules, but human beings are human beings. People with feelings and emotions who, while responsible for their actions and misdeeds, are nonetheless underserving of the kind of intense scorn they received.
I hope Palmeiro can find peace in life after baseball. Some happiness too. Everyone deserves that. As a person who has battled depression myself, I can tell you that I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. And Rafael Palmeiro is no one’s enemy.